The Red Hill Riders Mountain Bike Club have teamed up with former downhill professional John Waddell as event ambassador for the 2017 Red Hill Gravity Enduro Presented by Mercedes-Benz Mornington.

The event’s entries sold out within weeks, with numbers increasing from 190 to 250 in just its second year.

“I am very happy to be an ambassador of an event to promote where I live and be part of the sport which I love,” said Waddell, who now lives on the Mornington Peninsula with his family.

Before Australia knew the names of Mick and Tracey Hannah, Sam Hill and Troy Brosnan, it was Waddell who was on the rise in a sport that requires an intense need for speed. In 2002, and at just 21 years of age, Waddell made the podium at the Mountain Bike World Championships in Austria, a huge achievement for an Australian at the time.

However, a serious racing accident at the 2003 World Cup at Mont Sainte Anne, Canada, saw Waddell’s life change forever and signalled the end to his career as he knew it.

The Perth born downhiller spent 26 days in a coma and was transported home by air ambulance. Waddell had suffered a severe Brain Trauma and was lucky to be alive.

“It has been a long journey and at times I felt more improvements weren’t possible,” says Waddell. “When I think back over that month, the next 6 months, year, or 5 years, then I realise what I achieved, where I have travelled and the people I had met and inspired.

“Recovery always starts off with baby steps, which turn into jumps and with a little drive and will-power, you’ll be off in leaps and bounds.”

Incredibly, Waddell pushed through intense rehab, occupational therapy and speech therapy to re-sign with his professional team less than two years after the accident and began competing in 12 and 24hr enduro cross country races.

“To a certain degree I felt as though I had been beaten and I returned to prove that I may go down but I’m not out,” said Waddell. “Competition was all I knew, and maybe I didn’t have the previous raw talent that I used to have as a Downhill competition athlete [but] for me, 2005 was a chance to prove to myself that I could complete these events.”

Since then, Waddell has continued to race and be involved in the sport which he loves, racing the Cape to Cape four-day event in Western Australia every year since its inception in 2008, and last year competing in the Red Hill Riders’ Red Hill Gravity Enduro.

“What a fantastic inaugural Enduro event it was last year, what can be better than racing in your backyard with your family watching.”

Red Hill Riders Club Ambassador and former president Mark Gardner said the club was lucky to have someone like Waddell be a part of the event.

“Johnny is a great role model for our juniors at the club, we’re so lucky to have someone like him who has years of experience as a former pro and is genuinely a great guy be part of this event.”

The Red Hill Gravity Enduro Presented by Mercedes-Benz Mornington will be held on October 7-8 at Hillview Community Reserve, Boundary RD Dromana.