With another Oppy in the bag for the lairs, almost a week on, I’m still wishing I was out there, especially in the evenings. This year’s Oppy teams consisted of Andy, Joe, Ken, Dave, Trivess, Liam, Leigh (Patterson) and yours truly(in shape or not), having a go at a 400. We all met at Andy’s place at 7am and got the support vehicle packed and ready for Bill and Phil(the flower pot men) to pick up at 12pm and head off after us for our first support at Rokewood at around 5pm. It was while we were still packing that I made the declaration that neither Trivess or Joseph were allowed to use my name for the rest of the day as no good would come of it (stating “blessed are the big noses” has never helped anyone win the tour ) but somehow this got shaved down to the first hour. We were on our way just after 8 and stopped for a quick photo, as usual at the end of Andy’s road. The forecast showers held true and were on and off till around Trentham, where we had a short break. More of an issue would be the headwinds that were promised so riding smart was going to be the main plan. As we arrived in Daylesford a breakaway formed and took off down the road in search of coffee and a feed while the rest of us loitered under a shop’s awning for the designated 20 minutes. After 75km we were about half an hour ahead of schedule. We regrouped and got back on our way to our next stop at Ballarat. On this leg we came across the much dreaded car load of odd bods who soon after passing us pulled over to the side of the road for what we thought was going to be a good spray, as they came closer into view we saw the waving and heard the cheering and to our surprise discovered it was Meg, Pete and Co pulling over to lend moral support on there way to the wedding which kept them out of the ride. Poor buggers, nice surprise though. We were soon through spud country and in to Ballarat at 2.30pm and 118km, still ahead of schedule but now by only 25min, a pattern which would continue as we lost our perkiness. This stop was particularly pleasant mostly due to the lovely café we found. To some, the toilet was a point of much discussion, “recycled this and eco that”…sad but true. The road out of Ballarat took some zigging and zagging but we evenyually made it out working into the wind and dodging some traffic but a right hand turn not far out of town saw us making great progress with a slight down hill toward Rokewood and the much awaited pizza. This was easily our strongest leg, but a glitch on the outskirts of town soon had the mechanics in our group hovering over Dave’s bike in discussion as to what to do with his broken rear hanger (that’s a bike part). For the time being, it meant a bit of team work and a push into town. As we limped into Rokewood we were wrapped to see our support crew as they lay out the pizzas they had just picked up from the shop across the road. Guru Andy did his stuff and had Dave’s bike converted into a single speed in no time. My hat really goes off to the brown shoed fox, he spent most of his time looking after the team when he could have been having a well earned spell. The leg to Skipton flattened out and the going was pretty good as the sun was getting lower in the now cleared sky. It’s a great time of day and the further we went the stiller it became until there was almost no wind and a very clear sky. We came across Leigh Thornton and his bunch and pulled up for a short chat before heading on, they were doing part of our route but in the opposite direction, must have been hard pedalling backward though. We had to keep a close watch on our time from here as we were borderline on keeping up with our schedule and any lapses would put us behind the eight ball. It was interesting to see how dry it was around here as the paddocks around home are lush and green but again the Guru guided me back onto the road of enlightenment as he informed me of the “rain shadow” which hangs over these parts, h’yuk! Just a bit further down the road Andy rolled up beside me to mention quietly how nice it was to be riding at this time of day and I couldn’t agree more and the anticipation of the ride ahead left me happy to be out on another all nighter. As we got into Skipton, 207km, we managed to sneak in a feed in the last of the day’s light but from here it would be lights on and a few started to don extra layers as the air was starting to cool quite rapidly. You couldn’t ask for a better support crew than ours, even though Bill doesn’t ride a bike (and I know for a fact thinks we’re mad) he understands exactly what we will be looking for when we get into a control and often has a better idea of what you want than you do. It’s his 5th Oppy now and with only the briefest of detail he plans out the rest of the support and finds the prime amenities in every town. As a lover of antiques and old architecture, Billy always makes sure he has noted all his points of interest along the way and allowed plenty of time for a visit. Phil is also a gun supporter, having organised many Murray to Moyne rides for the Kyneton cycling club, it’s always great to get into town and cop a bit of his humour and good spirit as well as his genuine nature. Getting into town and having everything organised, set out and accessible is crucial in keeping the stops short and provides a good opportunity for a rest instead of having to run around getting things for yourself, it’s a bit like visiting your mum but much uglier. Guys, thanks a heap we are very lucky to have your help. We were chugging along quite nicely and had found our rhythm in the dark as our lights took over and provided the usual buffer between us and the cars going past, motorists seem to give you a lot more room when it’s only a flashing light they can see. At about half way I got what was for me only my second puncture on the road in six years. We decided we would not all stop so a few of the guys kept on and Liam, Joe and Leigh would stay with me and give me hand and catch up to the others by Lake Bolac. It would have to have been interesting to be a bystander on this occasion as eight hands tried to fix one puncture. I remember Joe saying to “just keep the gas cylinder pointed away from your face” well anyway, I am still amazed at how my contact lenses’ stayed in and I should count myself lucky my helmet was strapped on as it would probably have taken out a passing plane had it not been. Once back on the road we had some lost time to make up in the next 25 k’s, Joe suggested rolling turns would be a nice change so we all hooked in and set a cracking pace for the ride into town. I have to say that I have never been so happy to see flashing lights just before the lights of Lake Bolac came into view and had been doing my best not to miss a turn and get spat out the back, thankfully I kept it together long enough to be able to talk to the others as we caught them without sounding like an asthma sufferer after a carton of Marlboro. Pasta on the menu, another layer of clothing and a bit of a stretch saw us ready to head across to Ararat. Not a breath of wind or a cloud in the sky and a carpet of bright stars meant it would get colder still and had me glad I had thought to bring along so much gear, enough even to share with Diesel (Ken). It must have been cold for him to accept my offer. As a police car cruised past us it got me wondering as to what they were thinking as the saw us pedalling in the middle of the night, definitely not your average BMX bandits. The rest of this leg is a bit of a haze to me though I wasn’t particularly tired, I can’t recall much of it other than the need for my leg warmers at the next control. Ararat, 314km was still alive with clubbers as Bill and Phil had set up on the steps of a very official looking building which looked a bit town hallish but served our purposes very well. I brought out the heavy artillery in the form of a can of “V’ in my bidon, two bread rolls and half a tin of rice cream washed down by a strong cup of coffee to fortify me till the next stop. A couple of revellers came up for the usual quiz before trying to walk the wobbly walk home, not surprising visitors for 1.30am in a country town. This leg was to be a real test for us, it was cold but bearable however Ken had been paid a visit from the Sandman and was in need of a kip and ended up having to stop for a powernap on two occasions, a feeling I am very familiar with after struggling in a big way on my last shot at a 400. His first rest was six minutes, his second 12 and as we all stood quietly on the side of the road one of the guys lights shone on him and showed a picture of a man that had just fallen into a very deep sleep within seconds in the freezing cold and probably wet long grass, for all it was worth to him though, he was tucked away in bed under a warm doona dreaming of dills on bikes. Trivess and I chatted quietly while we waited. The striking thing about this was when we woke him, how rejuvenated he was when he got back on the bike and the freshness with which he rode, all praise the power nap. As we headed into Elmhurst we could hear shots ringing out from a long way but as we got closer the lads were sure it was just a gas gun, meant to scare birds away from a vineyard whose clock had gone dicky, but I knew it was a madman firing away at invisible invaders plotting to take him away, I saw them. Last year I rode through the night in just a short sleeved jersey under a huge full moon, in contrast this year I was rugged up under a clear moonless sky, but no less enjoyable. We had a short stop under the lights of the CFA shed in Elmhurst before continuing on to Avoca. We took 25 minutes (our longest break) in Avoca, which marked 377km on the computer. I took the opportunity to wash my hands under the warm water and continued to warm them under the hand dryer for a few minutes, not my most environmentally conscious moment but I’d had it on good word that it was effective, and it was. I was a little reluctant to get on the bike as I knew this would be our last leg for this year, but had a lovely chat with Trivess before spotting the oncoming lights of the Lairs doing the Petite Oppy as they rode out to meet us and finish our ride together. It was great to see Glo, JD, Adam and Eileen. Kerrie had to head back last evening having to get home to a youngster. The day dawned to light cloud as we headed into Maryborough for the finish at the wonderful old railway station, then on to the traditional Oppy breakfast, this year at the town hall. I have to mention the moment which held the greatest significance to probably all of us, which was during the welcoming speeech the organiser of this wonderful ride, a choked up Martin Haynes made note of the absence of an Audax cornerstone of one of our regulars. Barry, who is not at 100% at the moment, but will hopefully put up with us again next year, get well quick mate. Thanks again for another memorable ride boys. Less than twelve months to go. There's a ride planned for 8am Sunday morning in Lancefield, let me know if you are coming. Steve
I've had a good run avoiding crashes, till last Sunday, where I had a proper one. Riding back in to Lanfefield after having done one of the nicest rides you could do around here, I hit a ridge in the road which sent me on my way to Hurtville. I've banged up my knee, shoulder, elbow and hip. My helmet is now a trophy and I'm feeling a bit like a tree which has been ring barked, with lots of war wounds to dress and clean. My hip and knee are the worry as it feels, unsurprisingly, more than skin deep, but today it all feels a bit better and I reckon I'll be right pretty quick. I have had to miss what was going to be my first go at an Audax 600, but am just about to head into Lancefield to keep Andy company at the control point in the Tennis club rooms. My bike is pretty banged up but is now rideable again thanks to Guru Andy, but i'm sad that it has lots of battle scars too. But here's the lucky part, thankfully I was riding with my mates (only a small bunch of us headed out). They looked after me while I was lying on the side of the road, cleaned me up and got me home. Glo made sure my bits and pieces were properly dressed, Andy took my bike home and got it going again, Leigh pounced on it before it got flattened by a car or brought anyone else down and dragged it and me off the road then went and got his car, while Adam, Ken and Adele helped make sure I was OK. One of the first things that came to my mind was "thank god it's not my new bike" even while I was thinking I may have broken my collarbone. Thanks guys, and thanks to all of you that called to check up on me this week. Next time I see a rider continuing to ride in "The Tour", I will have a new respect for how tough "he" is. So for you lucky buggers there are rides planned for both Sunday and Monday. Sundays ride start from the Lancefield tennis club at 8am and can be extended to a 100 or 200km Audax brevet for those of you who are keen or you can just do a Lairs ride with the others if that more for you, give andy a quick call if you would like more details. There is also a ride planned for Monday morning from the usual spot in Lancefield at 8, let Andy know if you are in. Steve.