Top Mackay sportsman's heartbreak at hands of thieves
PETER Lister's chances of winning a second national title in the same year went up in smoke after his $10,000 mountain bike was stolen just 24 hours before a key race.
Lister was in Townsville for the 2018 Marathon National Championship, in good form and confident of a podium finish, but in one moment it all - literally - fell apart as his bike crumpled on the first lap of the race.
The drama began to unfold less than 24 hours earlier, when Lister and fellow professional rider Jason English stopped outside a supermarket for supplies on their arrival in Townsville.
As they were returning to their car he noticed it was surrounded by shoppers and the centre's security; that's when he saw their racing bikes, which had been locked to the roof racks, were gone.
"We were inside for about half an hour," Lister said.
"Nothing like this has happened to me before."
Thanks to the help of Townsville's mountain biking community and police he was able to track down his bike, but it was so badly damaged by the thieves it "fell apart" on the first lap of the race, ending his campaign for another national title, in a different category.
"By the time we recovered the bikes I had five hours sleep, and didn't have a chance for any practise laps," he said.
Despite the poor preparation, Lister said he was feeling good as the race began and was holding third when he had to retire from the competition before completing a single lap.
When the riders discovered the theft, Lister posted on social media, urging people to keep an eye out for the unique mountain bikes, while they both ran through neighbouring streets trying to spot the bikes.
The popular mountain biker's post was shared instantly and they were inundated with offers of bikes for the race.
"We did pictures and within five minutes there were 263 shares (of the post). People went out everywhere on dirt jumpers, scooters and cars looking for the bikes," Lister said.
Someone posted a photo of a person on Lister's bike and he was able to narrow down the search.
He visited a house in the area and the occupants told him they thought they'd seen his bike go into a house down the road, but warned the mountain biker to call the police rather than confront the residents.
"I went to the second house and introduced myself as Pastor Peter," he said.
"A person inside said 'Peter Lister?' They knew it because of the name on the bike."
The bikes were not there, but the residents told him they knew who had them.
"They said they would keep an eye out for it," he said.
Within hours, those people told Lister they had taken the bikes off the alleged thieves as they rode past on the street, and he went back to the house to reclaim them.
Lister said he'd had great support from Kirwan police and the Townsville mountain biking community and was still receiving messages yesterday.
"I just received a message 'I'm sorry Townsville didn't turn on its best for you'," he said.
Sam Giblett wrote on Lister's post "I have the same bike if you get stuck for tomorrow".
Graham Pemberton wrote, "Mate don't know you but I have a decent bike you can borrow if not found. I'm 185cm. PM me if you need it".
"I was overwhelmed with 100s of bike offers," Lister said.
He already had a back-up bike from a local bike shop on the car when he found his bike.
But the damage was done. Both bikes had been tagged and national champion stickers ripped off; however, it was the structural damage that ultimately cost him the chance for another national championship.
"I didn't think the damage was that bad," Lister said.
It was the first time a racer had ever retired on the first lap of a MTB race.