Steve as usual had all the preparations under control for yet another 24 hour odyssey with his closest mates, or at least the ones that couldn’t find anything better to do. The route had finally been decided – Sherwood court start, Highlands and Ruffy by early afternoon to get the climbing out of the way early then on to Euroa where we would be waited on hand and foot by Phillip and Sue Don, Benalla for more of the same, Oxley at midnight then on to Myrtleford for some sleep (didn’t have everything ready maybe) before heading into Wangaratta to pat ourselves on the back for doing it yet again.
I didn’t have everything ready after a long week at work. I had forgotten about the main course at the first supported stop being quiche which I only remembered at 9 on Friday night. Ah well I had to wait for Miles anyway so I had plenty of time as it turned out. Miles was joining the Lairs for the first time and neither of us quite knew what we were getting into. Miles is true to his name and looks at long bike rides rather than being happy with a mere 360 in a weekend. So he was a bit late riding up to Sherwood Court on Friday night, something about starting late and getting lost (only twice which is not too bad in his case). Anyhow the quiches were nearly cooled by the time he found us. After a bite to eat we all got as much sleep as we could.
First to arrive next morning was Dave (he was the closest) then Ken, George with Carole and then Steve with the towing vehicle. We piled all the food and our gear into the back of the trailer resplendent with its new decorations, took a few photos, said good bye to Carole and Glo who could go on the Oppy because she didn’t want to miss a spin class.
As I rode down the gravel I was thinking of all the riders I have shared the Oppy with – over 20 – especially Sue Taylor who was never keen to tackle the gravel on Sherwood Court much to my amusement. Right on cue I watched my front wheel wander into the loose stuff and bring me down with a thump. Ouch. Bike was ok so I had to keep going!
We made good time through Pyalong against a bit of a headwind, not too bad at this stage. Ken and I were thinking of the next stage and all the climbing. A quick stop at Seymour and we started the slog up to Highlands. Plenty of banter at this stage, saving the dad jokes till we really needed them during the night. The wind had picked up and so had the clouds in the distance. There were a few slow spots up to Highlands but we all seemed to manage ok, Miles didn’t even have the courtesy to get into his “small” chainring as he disappeared into the distance on his 83 tooth monster which he apparently forced a bike shop in Richmond to fit for him. The weather was looking a bit doubtful but Ken did the right thing and put his raincoat on to make it stop. It worked sometimes I would have to say, must be something about his technique. A quick stop at Highlands and we pushed on to Ruffy. Ken let slip that our high point should be over 600m so at less than 500m we still had some work in front of us. Sometimes it does not help to have a Garmin to tell you what is ahead. Between Highlands and Ruffy there is a lot of up and down much more than I remembered after my last ride along that road. However all good things come to an end and we finally had the privilege to pay over the odds for a couple of bottles of very nice soft drink and eat our rolls at their table. The leftover food from the last customers did look good – we shall return and relax under the trees over a long lunch sometime, I’m sure.
Still more climbing after Ruffy before eventually we dropped down to Euroa and Sue and Phil and the last minute quiches. We had hoped to get to Euroa a bit earlier and the Don’s being the Don’s they had listened to Steve’s suggested arrival time and made sure they were there well before that so they had a long time to feed the giant flock of ducks that called the river their home. How many times have I stopped at Euroa or Violet Town on an Oppy? Lots is all I’ll say.
Headed into the wind toward Violet Town as the sky darkened (it surely was not that late!) Even Ken’s raincoat was not holding the rain at bay so we reinforcements were in order so we all kitted up but to no avail. Therein ensued one of the most fantastic lighting storms I could hope to witness (if only my neck was not too sore to turn to watch). The gap between lightning and thunder became less and unless until they coincided with one almighty clap which nearly knocked us off our bikes. The storm moved away somewhat leaving some very heavy rain at times. We told Ken to take his jacket off to see if that would help but for some reason he was not that keen on the idea. I think his captain should have been more forceful really! By halfway we had a bit over an hour up our sleeves so would have to push along to get any time for.
By Benalla we had dried out somewhat but we were still getting squalls every 15 minutes. As we rode into the Rose Gardens in Benalla we met Sue and her aunt heading over to the pizza shop to pick up dinner. While shovelling pizza into our mouths and getting ready for the night ahead we had another heavy fall of rain pass by. We were quickly on our bikes with ex-local Dave leading the way (after sharing stories with another local, Uncle Keith Don). Steve didn’t seem to trust either Dave or the Garmin but after a bit of dithering we cast our lot in with Dave who couldn’t get where he used to live wrong, could he? Heading towards Kilferra he happily waved to the left and said he used to live down that road. ‘Err Dave, no road there’ ‘Whoops I meant over there, I think.’ Blamed the now constant rain for his confusion! Not much climbing now to break the monotony so the boys trotted out as many jokes as they could remember. We were now riding in a close group making it much easier for me to keep up and I had to stay in front of Miles to avoid premature blindness from his very bright flashing lights.
Oxley was our last stop for the night 270 kilometres done by 20 past midnight. Leftover pizza at Cafe Sueandphil with some rice rolls donated by the cafe across the road filled the stomach. Miles finished off his quota of milk and we were on our way. Not much rain around now but still some lightning in the distance. Only one small climb on the snow road but by the top I was behind the others again, feeling ok on the flat but feeling the distance on the slight climb. We made good time into Myrtleford for our ‘overnight’ stop. We had slightly improved our average speed since Ruffy at 120k’s so we had given ourselves enough time for me to fall off my bike again (must remember to lean to the same side as the foot I have taken out of the cleat – would have stuck to the leather shoes and cages if it wasn’t so wet) and get about an hour’s sleep after the obligatory boys’ fart and sore bottom jokes.
Up at 4.20 then away at 4.50 for the last 50 kilometres into Wangaratta (had to leave enough time for Steve’s puncture and to watch Tim Taylor from the steel bike team change his tyre for the third time in 24 hours!) The 5 km markers seemed to take ages to come up until we noticed a brightly lit car approaching slowly. The car turned out to be our petite Oppy team, consisting of the Burridges and one Moore who had all come out to share the last few kilometres with us. The Burridges were very chirpy, obviously Barry had kept his truck talk to a minimum. Best of all Steve had a new audience for his jokes although Mad Dog Meaghan may rue the day!
After another lapse of faith in the Garmin and some confusion we all turned up at the finish to do a lap of the velodrome and finish another Oppy for most of us and the first for Miles, Alex and Nick.
My stats were 366 kilmetres, average 19.9, climb 2500m 18 and a half hours moving time.
Big thank you to Steve for organising, Ken for coping with the accounts and the rest of the team (George, Miles and Dave) for turning up and turning the pedals enough to get from the start to the finish and drag me along when I would rather have been anywhere else. The biggest thank goes to Sue and Phillip Don who gave up a weekend to support us.