After five days riding you come to appreciate that it can be ground breaking, crossing new boundaries and looking at a set target that for some was beyond previous miles stones of cycling experience. The St Lukes “Ride for Youth – Bendigo to Bathurst” was a wonderful experience for all that participated, a strong and powerful testimony of mateship and camaraderie and that is not just on the bike but in all facets of the whole event from the first thought to mission accomplished.
All the preparation cannot prepare you for the unknown, like the phrase often used in competitive cycling circles, “nothing can prepare you for a race but the race itself”. For this ride to be successful there was many months of planning and preparation just to develop and refine the road safety compliance requirements of the NSW authorities. Every municipality required a copy of the risk assessment and safety contingency plan due to being an organised cycling event. This also included the NSW Police and Road Traffic Authority being made aware with the same information complied.
On the road you come to appreciate that such details were accounted for and maintained as the ride plan with an escort vehicle at the front and a follow vehicle at the rear both with radio contact with the designated ride leader in the bunch. Such confidence of knowing what is ahead and potentially what can be approaching from behind allows for the cycling group to be more relaxed and able to concentrate on the wheels in front and the ever changing road surface conditions not to mention the king brown snakes and countless tortoises both dead and alive.
With head wind and dead road surfaces the conditions were tiring and trying at the same time. Flashing lights, well signed vehicles, reflective vests on riders in changing light conditions and the mandatory cycling tail light gave the best possible opportunity of being seen as being responsible shared road users. This was evident by the overwhelming response of the larger majority of passers-by as we could count on one hand and less than half the fingers any signs of aggression by shared road users. With the technology available today the ride was well mapped out with distance and profile of rolling hills to reasonably long and challenging climbs which allowed for rest stops to be considered at a time when it would be to the best advantage.
Having a forward roaming van for catering allowed for sites that were safe and well off the road to be selected. The catering van is one of the crucial additions we have found over the years in making a cycling event of this nature enjoyable despite the conditions. The reduction of mental anguish of knowing at a set distance ahead of you there will be a rest and refuelling of the body opportunity is worth its weight in gold. A table with goodies laid out and a adventurous servant heart that searches out the local bakeries and shops for the fresh food makes it all a joy and where possible for the avid coffee drinker a fresh cup of their poison awaiting.
The value of this part of the ride preparation cannot be measured but is essential in making the ride not only enjoyable but memorable and inviting to come back again. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and this resonates with cyclists after a hard leg on the road. The type of food used to fuel the riders can vary from fruit, lollies to sophisticated power bars carbo-gels and hydration and energy replacement drinks to flavoured milk to homemade fruit cake that is always a favourite.
Having back up spare wheels makes time on the road making repairs to a minimal when punctures can happen even with new tyres. Country road verges are full of holes, steel belted radial spikes, broken glass and the like that can penetrate the side walls of the tyres.
The last essential component is the will and desire of all riders despite their skill ability and experience to remain as a united team on and off the road. It becomes more and more evident the longer you spend time on the road how important each member can be in maintaining morale and giving opportunities to impact each other with encouragement to hang in there. The Bendigo to Bathurst ride had some great characters that will make lasting memories.
Well done one and all, not one’s contribution was of greater value than any other.
Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing.