Winmalee’s Marc Simone took up cycling 18 months ago and had a grand plan to ride to Darwin in 49 day’s time, hoping to raise up to $100,000 for Mission Australia.
That dream ended on Saturday morning when he was struck by a Jeep on the M4 at Emu Plains, dying instantly.
The 43-year-old school information technology specialist and father of two had been cycling up to 300km a week in preparation for the event, telling Fairfax Media earlier this year “I’m not a professional rider by any means; I’m an average bloke, father and husband.”
He was moved to do the ride to help homeless children —the 26,000 aged between 12 and 18 who, on any given night in Australia, sleep on the street.
Close friend Keith Roberts, the SES Blue Mountains logistics officer, who has lived across the road from the Simone family for the past 12 years, said Marc’s wife Terese was “shattered” by the event. Family and friends have rallied around Terese and children Julia, 13, and Mark Anthony, 12, with the funeral planned for Friday at 11am at St Thomas Aquinas in Springwood.
“Marc travelled a lot around Australia with his job and he had been a pre-school teacher. In his jobs he saw kids coming to school without breakfast, without proper homes. He was someone who followed through on his commitments. He was going to sleep outside, like the homeless, just in a swag the four weeks it would have taken to do the ride.”
Mr Roberts’s son, Morgan, 22, was Marc’s regular training partner but had been unable to ride with him on Saturday due to family commitments.
“We were going to have a surprise party for his sister’s 25th birthday that night so I asked him to stay home and help. Morgan and Marc were going to do a ride on Sunday instead. They always plan their rides but they never planned to go on the M4. For some reason Marc got up and did a ride himself on Saturday. Morgan is blaming himself that he wasn’t there.”
Mission Australia staff have been “knocked absolutely sideways” by the tragic incident.
“We are absolutely devastated by the news of his death,” spokesman Paul Andrews said.
“Marc wasn’t a cyclist. He was someone who was driven by his commitment for social justice and set himself a goal to do the 4000 km ride. This kind of personal challenge was very uncommon.”
“My colleagues have been in touch with his family and are looking at ways to recognise his efforts and what he was trying to do. He was inspiring.”
The ride is set to go ahead later in the year in a relay form with Morgan Roberts mooted to lead off the first leg from Winmalee to Lithgow.
“We want to get in touch with cycling clubs and see if someone will do a Bathurst leg and just work our way up to Darwin,” Mr Roberts said. “We are going to continue with the fundraising that Marc started, it was his passion to help the homeless kids, we don’t know how or when but we are determined.”
Mr Roberts said his mate was a wonderful husband and father who had taken his family overseas in 2011 for nine months so they could experience the world.
According to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, an average of 35 cyclists are killed on Australian roads annually, with 2500 seriously injured.
The crash investigation unit has examined the accident scene and a report is being prepared for the coroner. The 23-year-old P-plate driver was taken to hospital on Saturday morning for treatment for shock and mandatory blood and alcohol testing. His vehicle was also seized for mechanical examination.
Investigations into the crash are continuing and Penrith police have appealed for anyone who witnessed the incident, which occurred about 7.30am in the eastbound breakdown lane of the M4 at Emu Plains, to come forward.
The Blue Mountains Gazette had planned to cover Mr Simone’s ride and had been in talks with him earlier this month.
“It’s a gruelling ride and not many novice riders have ever attempted a solo ride via this route before. If it was easy, then anyone could do it but compared to the harshness of how our homeless children live, I think I got it easy,’’ he said.
Gazette readers on Facebook asked that the tragic incident focus more attention on cyclist safety.
“It is time cyclist awareness was more promoted in the Mountains,” posted Michael Thomsen.
“Let this tragedy be used in as positive manner as possible to increase cyclist safely on our local roadways.”
To donate to Mission Australia go to www.everydayhero.com.au/marcsimone.