Monday, November 12, 2012

A different perspective on a 1200k Randonnee

The 5th edition of the Great Southern Randonnee in late October this year provided me with a different view of a big ride to what I have been accustomed to.
It all started a considerable time earlier when I committed to Stephen Rowlands the new organiser of this iconic Audax Australia event to lend a hand with its running. I found myself part of a small organising team that held a number of meetings to sort out the detail. Some aspects of the required work were distributed amongst various people but the bulk of the considerable workload was undertaken by Stephen and the irrepressible wee Scotty, Ronnie McInnes. Ronnie and wife Meredith kindly hosted the organising meetings at their home.

Meeting at Ronnie and Meredith's home

I have organised supported rides before but a big multi day main event like the GSR is at a far higher level and requires a lot more in place than just food, a route and cue sheets and I have the greatest respect for the time and effort that Stephen and Ronnie put into this ride.

The GSR regularly attracts several international riders to our shores. Some regulars who I had met before at the Perth Albany Perth in 2010. Mark Thomas and Vincent Muoneke from Seattle were back along with Spencer Klaassen on fixed from Kansas. Julian Dyson from the UK was also back and there were several other new and returning internationals. I had fond memories from Perth of riding with Vincent and Mark through the forests after Pemberton, of Spencer's son helping as a volunteer on the ride and of briefly riding with Julian after dark on the the road between Wagin and Williams.

Having a spare bedroom in our house gave my wife Carol and I the chance to billet two riders for the days leading up to and the days after the ride. The two riders that were to stay with us were Rick Blacker from Seattle Randonneurs and Julian Dyson from AudaxUK. It was an absolute pleasure to have them stay with us. As one might imagine that most of the talking was about long distance cycling but I also got to learn a lot about them and life at home. It was really great to become good friends with the two of them.

Julian, myself and Rick
I had only finished my 1200k volunteers ride a few days earlier and I was out on a hard 100k permanent with Rick to tune him up for the GSR. At the halfway stage of the ride with many steep ascents my legs finally yelled "back off". I had to ease back,take things easier and follow Rick's wheel as a nasty wind and some rain added to the challenge.

Rick stops to take a photo

Two days later it was the same torturous route but this time it was with Julian on a brighter day and fortunately for me with stronger legs.

Julian cresting a climb

A pre-ride dinner at the Angelsea Golf Club the night before the start of the GSR gave many of the riders and volunteers a chance to catch up and renew old acquaintances from both interstate and overseas.
Rick, Mark and Spencer (rear views), Julian and Vincent catch up prior to the pre ride dinner
International riders before the start
The briefing of riders begins
 My primary role during the ride was to be a roving scout watching over the event and riders as they moved through the countryside spreading out over about 200k by the time the first riders finished. I was also lucky enough to be the person issuing the brevet cards, maps and route notes before the start so it enabled me to get to know some of the new faces early on.
The 1200 started at 6pm and not too long after the start I drove Stephen and Alison to the Queenscliff checkpoint then on to the secret control to check the riders as they progressed towards completion of the first 200k which was essentially a loop around Geelong and the Bellarine Penisula. A brief stop back at Angelsea for a quick coffee then I went on alone to Apollo Bay to sign cards of the faster riders before the shops opened in town. A few of the quickest riders just beat me to town but I looked after several until about 6 am when the bakery opened. I then drove on into the Otways and found a quiet side track where I managed about an hours sleep in the back of my car. I moved on to Port Campbell and had breakfast with the faster riders and got another hour or so sleep.  This sleeping scenario was repeated for the next four days as I moved from control to control. I focused on the mid pack to slower riders generally and didn't again see the quickest riders. I  picked up some 1000k riders that abandoned on Lavers Hill after a warm afternoons climb and ferried them to Port Campbell. I picked up an abandoned rider at Hopkins Falls after his inadequate lights gave out in the middle of the night and transported him to Port Fairy. I recovered another riders rain jacket and tights that he had dropped on the roadside between Halls Gap and Moyston. However for most of the time I was just observing and encouraging the riders and all the time itching to be out there with them.
 A quiet country lane
An emu near Tower Hill, Koroit
Sarah and Bec on the homeward leg
 A dramatic sunset in the Otways
Finished. Tired but satisfied (Mark, Mike and Rick)
Happy finishers 1 (Hamish and Ian)
Frank....where have you been?
Happy finisher 2 (Julian)
Happy finishers 3 (Sarah and Bec)
Jim   and his Bulgarian jersey
All in all the Great Southern Randonnee for 2012 was a great success. Riders were challenged by the route and the conditions and the successful ones will cherish their involvement. The DNFs will reflect on their performance and be better for their learnings. Many new friendships were forged during the ride and many old freindships were renewed and strengthened. Everyone involved will have a story to tell.  See you in 2016. 

1 comment:

  1. Aweek back at work and all this seems a long time ago!
    Many thanks for your hospitality and dedication to GSR 2012.
    See you all out on the road somewhere in the world...
    Julian D.