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The Great Victorian Bike Ride

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The Great Victorian Bike Ride

Old 01-03-11, 01:04 AM
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The Great Victorian Bike Ride

… doesn’t require its participants to wear tweed or ride penny-farthings, although I did see one of those.

It’s a huge week-long supported ride through the Australian state of Victoria – in fact I’ve heard it claims to be the largest such ride in the world, though I haven’t tried to verify this. There were something like 3500 participants this year.

The most recent was late Nov – early Dec this year (sorry for posting this report a bit late, but it took a while to get the photos downloaded). The route ran from Yarrawonga on the Murray River (Victoria’s northern border) to Marysville in the centre of the state.

Most participants on these rides use the campsite the organisers set up in each town. Some towns have a population of only a few hundred, so you can imagine the impact of several thousand cyclists for a day. The organisers (Bicycle Victoria) tend to bypass larger regional cities and run the rides to smaller places.

I took a more limp-wristed option and paid extra for motel rooms. I’ve been on such rides in other states and taken the camping option, and the queues for showers and toilets were bad enough. Sharing them with 3500 people was not my idea of a nice time. Getting in after a moderately long ride, finding your luggage and setting up your tent when beer could be being imbibed … life’s too short.

The wisdom of my choice was confirmed when it rained hard on quite a few days. Actually the rain gods were kind and mostly didn’t rain while we were riding – only in the evenings or at night. We did get a torrential storm once while on the road – I had to stop because I couldn’t see where I was going, and the rain was so hard that I thought it had turned to hail. This after a 10-year drought in SE Australia. (This year there have been disastrous floods throughout Queensland, NSW and Victoria.)

The riding was great. I’d not known this particular bit of Victoria except as incidental scenery on the Sydney-Melbourne freeway, so it was a revelation. The hills weren’t as extreme as I’ve struck on other occasions, though there was one very stiff climb. Mostly long rolling rides through lovely country. The longest day was just over 100 km – no challenge to those who unlike me regularly do 100 miles.

Participants were an extraordinarily mixed bunch. There we plenty of carnivorous competitors who were arriving at the next destination before most of us had finished breakfast. There were groups of various sorts – local bike clubs, various organisations, one group of cancer survivors and their supporters. Plenty of retirees out for a leisurely ride.

Most conspicuous were groups of school students (this distinguished the Victorian event from those in other states) – ten or 20 kids, from metropolitan or regional schools, mostly well-briefed on riding in groups, who left me for dead as they roared past in line. Quite a few of them were from Catholic girls’ schools. You need a good grasp on your masculine pride as you hear a musical voice say ‘Passing’ over your shoulder and a phalanx of riders goes past at twice your speed, all with ‘Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Bicycle Touring Team’ on their jerseys.

One fellow on my group was riding a 3-wheeler with a ‘Disabled’ sign on it. He has MS and walks with a crutch or a walking frame. He has full use of only one of his legs and keeps up an exercise regime to keep the disease at bay. He’d start about an hour before everybody else and get in among the last but accepted help from the sag wagon only once – on the last and steepest of the climbs.

A few pics here.
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Old 01-03-11, 02:35 AM
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Sounds a great ride and looking at the camp site- you had a bit of company "en route".

Been hearing about the Floods in Queensland over here but didn't realise how long the Rain had been falling. Glad it did not effect you too much.
How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.

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