The 'Oppy' has been attracting a lot more interest from people outside the Audax fraternity in recent years. I've noticed in some places (including - surprisingly - the Audax website) the event is being referred to as the Opperman 24-hour Time Trial which makes it sound a lot more like a race or a competitive event than it actually is.
For the sake of those who haven't heard of it, the object of the Oppy is to ride as far as you can in 24 hours. Teams start from wherever they like and ride towards a central point - for example Geelong in Victoria or Wagga in NSW. The rules are pretty simple, requiring a team of three to five bicycles, a designated route and controls and so on. You have to cover at least 360km and complete at least on the road 25km in the last couple of hours. It's based on the Fleche Velicio run by the famous Audax Club Parisien. Similar events are held all over the world. It's sometimes described as a rally, where riders meet at a central point and celebrate their achievements together.
|On the road in the 2015 Oppy.|
For the first four or five years I rode the Oppy, I didn't even know there was a record. Audax is a bit uncompetitive and unconcerned with records like that. At any rate, it's not really an official Australian record. It's just the furthest anyone has ridden in an Oppy. A 24-hour road team time trial would be carried out under completely different rules and conditions and presumably by a club that wasn't dedicated solely to non-competitive cycling.
Anyhow the roadies came and saw and conquered. The men managed 800km, the women I believe made it 600km. Both were rides were grand athletic achievements.
Sadly though, both teams broke the rules in achieving their records. After complaints, both were disqualified by the Audax hierarchy for receiving support between controls. An email to members read in part: "The rides undertaken by both teams were incredible feats of endurance cycling, however they were outside the rules of Audax".
The breaches don't really amount to cheating, in the sense that little the advantages gained were likely only small in the scheme of things but they were breaches nonetheless and a departure from the spirit of the event. It's the first time in my decade-long involvement with the club that I've heard of anyone being disqualified from the event or any event really. It is a shame but the rules are simple and clear and well-known to anyone who has done more than one or two rides.
Watching events unfold, I found myself bemused by the the hyper-competitive and high-profile nature of the attempts. With my tongue slightly in my cheek I wrote elsewhere: "There is no prize in cycling quite as sweet as snatching a win from a bunch of beardoes in their sixties on steel bikes who didn't even know they were racing." But it's true of Audax in general, it's not a race and finishing times are barely recorded and certainly not remembered or exalted except in very rare circumstances. 'Winning' the Oppy is a bit like winning Around the Bay in a Day or the Gong Ride. It's missing the point and the spirit of the event.
|Oppy team comes out of the long night.|
For me, the spirit of Audax is the lone rider out on the road, who battles the night and the wind and the rain and that little voice inside that says 'you can't' and challenges themselves and fails or triumphs almost unseen and unnoticed. The very word Audax means audacious. It is someone on a journey and if the only person they end up impressing is themselves then that is all that counts. The external validation sometimes hard to detect aside from the odd medal or distance award or pat on the back at the finish. That is the spirit of the Audax, and of the Oppy.
1200km so far this year.