The final day of the 2014 RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride was a short 33km trundle into Lilydale and the ride finish festival. After nearly 500km of pedalling the riders weren’t even slightly phased by that meagre distance – that’s a short day in the saddle for these now-seasoned cyclists.
Again it was to be a rainy ride, though it was drizzly showers instead of the torrential downpours of the ride to Healesville. The rain fell gently throughout the night and persisted in showers through breakfast and departure.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this must surely dampen the spirits, but these riders are made of sterner stuff than that. Part of the ‘week in another world’ experience of the Great Vic is the greater amount of time spent outdoors compared to ordinary life. As a result, the vagaries of the weather are soon accepted as a natural part of life – though the forecast is certainly closely watched and a subject much discussed.
On this year’s ride, overall we enjoyed some warm days that were a bit sapping for some but very little cold weather. Rain – including some spectacular hail in Bright – was a frequent companion but the warm temperatures made the rain a bit easier to deal with. While we had periods of feeling a bit damp, some sunshine and warm to dry out the gear was never too far away. I wonder if this is what it’s like cycle touring in the sub-tropics…
It is impossible to entirely joyful about this year’s Great Vic when it included the tragic death of one of our Great Vic family, Trevor Pearce, who had joined us on a number of Bicycle Network events. The terrible loss of Trevor was a devastating blow to his friends and family and to everyone involved in the Great Vic. The memorial service that evening and the presence of chaplains and counsellors was welcome support, though our time in Mansfield immediately following the tragedy was subdued and reflective.
However, encouraged by Trevor’s example and with the blessing of his friends, riders mounted up again to ride on to complete the journey. In recognition of our lost fellow traveller, riders emulated his friendliness and love for life by giving ‘a wave for Trevor’ to all they encountered. In this way we sought to come to terms with the horrible accident of his death.
Because another key part of the ‘week in another world’ experience is the camaraderie that binds this disparate group of cyclists from all walks of life. From far-flung locations they come together for this much-loved event and for this brief time riders are united in the quest to travel through country by pedal power.
As a result, the finish line of the final day’s ride holds great significance as a mark of perseverance and achievement. The finish line at Lilydale was an extremely welcoming site, flanked by an enthusiastic cheer squad of the volunteer entertainment team, Bicycle Network staff and family and friends of the returning riders.
Heart-warming every year is to see proud kids and even-prouder parents hugging each other on the successful completion of the ride. Students in their school groups find energy for ecstatic celebrations. Many a grown-up rider is justly proud of themselves as well for the considerable achievement and share warm congratulations with their fellow travellers. Such is the satisfaction of covering 520km under your own steam across the breadth of Victoria.
Official 2014 RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride photos are available for sale at www.sportsfoto.com.au.
Certainly any rider is entitled to be pleased with themselves for overcoming the hills of the high country we’ve been exploring on this Great Vic – especially Tawonga Gap between Yackandandah and Bright and the Black Spur between Alexandra and Healesville, but with plenty of other ascents in between as well.
Next year the Great Vic is rediscovering the goldfields of central Victoria – what a beautiful part of the world, so rich in produce, wine, history and culture. We can’t wait, and we hope to see you there.
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