Third time's the charm. Though outbreaks of sanity cut our numbers from the 12 riders who rolled out last year to just nine, the Lancefield Lairs had a superb ride in the Fleche Opperman All Day Trial.
This was my third ride in the Oppy. The rules are simple: ride for 24 hours, cover a minimum of 360km, finish in the home town of Australia's greatest-ever cyclist.
Our route this year took us north-east from Tooborac in central Victoria, through Seymour, Euroa and Violet Town before turning north to St James, west through Numurkah to Echuca and finally south to Rochester. Long story short: a top ride. Just eight kilometres before the first dick joke, happily about 230km before the bad singing started and 50km more for the shocking poetry recitals. It's hard to imagine better conditions for riding: a sunny day, a clear night and no wind.
We were met every 30 or 60km or so by our faithful crew of supporters and fed, watered and generally looked after. A bare 20 minutes later we were back on the road. We managed to gain about 20 minutes on our schedule during the first part of the ride and held that margin the whole time. We somehow even picked our pace up a little once darkness fell, which meant we earned a glorious two hours sleep on the dreamy soft floor of the Echuca football club.
Words don't explain the pleasure and challenges of this ride well. The highlight of the ride for me (apart from the company) was the long, flat ride under the stars on a crystal clear rural Victorian night. There's something magical about being part of a tiny peloton threading its way along quiet country roads at night. I was a lot stronger this year than in previous years, so my only low point was about 15 minutes in the wee small hours when I felt a bit weary and felt like consulting the Big Book of Excuses. A bit of food seemed to spark me up.
The finish is great fun: there's a band and the traditional photos with the Oppy statue. Then it's off for a well-earned breakfast at the Rochester Football Club and the speeches, the reunions and he traditional reading of Oppy's letter about the first running of event. For my money, this ride is one of the finest on the Audax calendar. Long may it remain so.
The top photo shows the Lair's Oppy team, the Lair's women's Petit Oppy (180km) team and our support crews at the Oppy statue in Rochester.
1615km so far this year.