The 32nd edition of the RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride commenced yesterday in spectacular conditions, with more than 3,000 riders converging on Ballarat to set off on this one-of-a-kind adventure.
The first day was a non-ride day, affording riders the opportunity to settle into the swing of things, ready their bikes, and meet up with friends new and old. Under blue skies, with just a few gentle wisps of cloud, picturesque Victoria Park on the outskirts of the Ballarat CBD transformed into a vast village of tents.
The scale and efficiency with which the campsite works is difficult to convey; the entire production uproots and reestablishes itself in just a few hours, providing everything from warm showers, food for thousands of hungry mouths, a ‘Main Street’ full of vendors and even a movie screen. The logistics of all this are mindboggling, and a testament to the tireless work of the more than 300 volunteers and staff that pull it all together.
As night descended on the campsite, the clear skies from earlier in the day ushered in brisk temperatures; it was a chilly night for some, although a great Coldplay cover band warmed the spirits of those who caught their performance.
As the skies began to lighten, the anticipatory hush lifted – replaced by a morning chorus of tent zippers, deflating air-mattresses and yawning. By 6am, the village was (mostly) awake, ready to set off on the first full day’s ride.
Our route from Ballarat to Avoca was 76km – a fairly long first day for the RACV Great Vic. The distance was eased by a mostly downhill route, with just a few short climbs to test the legs. Straight, quiet farm roads showed the scale of the ride off, with a steady stream of riders stretching literally from horizon to horizon.
After the lunch spot at Talbot, at the 53km mark, we rode past the scenic Paddys Ranges State Park, with narrow roads and dry eucalypt forests to both sides of the road.
Before too long, we’d arrived at Avoca, our host for the evening. Avoca’s a small town of less than a thousand – we’ve tripled the population for the night. But with a pop-up village with live music, a gourmet BBQ, wine tastings from the Pyrenees ranges and live music, they’re showing us the warmest of welcomes. They’ve even opened the town’s post office for the day – on a Sunday, no less! – so riders can post their souvenirs home.
Tomorrow we’ve got a shorter day of 68km to Dunolly, but before then, we’ve got a night of fun and revelry ahead of us. This year’s RACV Great Vic is off to a cracking start and we’re thrilled to be able to share it with you.
For pictures of the day, see Flickr.
Follow the ride live on Twitter: @bicycle_network #GreatVic