THE Bendigo arm of the Tour de Transplant has gone off without a hitch, with riders arriving in Bendigo yesterday afternoon then attending an inspiring dinner at the Foundry Hotel Complex.
Ninety people attended the dinner in total, including City of Greater Bendigo mayor Barry Lyons, who welcomed guests with an opening address.
Second Chance Accommodation chairman Jon Rolfe, the head of the tour's organising committee, said he was overwhelmed by people's support for the cause.
"In many ways we can't believe it's been so large and so successful," he said.
"Twenty-five riders have been doing great things and putting their bodies on the line."
He said the tour had raised $183,000 so far, all of which would go to the Heart and Lung Transplant Trust's Second Chance Accommodation Program.
The program funds rental apartments close to The Alfred hospital, which patients can stay in for three months following their transplant, as they physically and emotionally recover.
In many ways we can't believe it's been so large and so successful.Jon Rolfe
Mr Rolfe said transplant patients were required to live in close proximity to their treating hospital in the three months following their transplant because they had to undergo daily treatments and tests.
He said city accommodation was often very costly, but the Second Chance Accommodation program allowed patients to stay in apartments for just $15 a night.
The Heart and Lung Transplant Trust is run entirely by volunteers, all of whom have undergone a transplant themselves, or cared for a transplant patient.
Mr Rolfe had a double lung transplant in 2009 and said the three months following the operation was a very difficult time for him.
"It took three months for the pain to subside," Mr Rolfe said.
"It's not just the physical trauma you have to overcome but also the emotional."
Mr Rolfe said he had suffered panic attacks during the three-month recovery period because he thought he couldn't breathe properly.
"For 40 years I couldn't breathe properly, so it took a while for my brain to adjust," he said.
The dinner last night was sponsored by Capella Capital and La Trobe University.
The Tour de Transplant is a nine-day, 1100-kilometre ride led by Australian cycling legend Phil Anderson.
Each kilometre of the journey represents one of the 1100 Victorians who have received heart and lung transplants since 1989.
The tour ends in Melbourne on March 30.