The Oppy is my favourite ride, it has been for years. It's a challenge, but with the company and support of a bunch of good friends and some excellent night riding thrown in. The idea is to cover 360km or more in 24 hours. It requires some determination but is within the reach of the ordinary cyclist, of which I am decidedly one. This year's Oppy - my fourth - was easily the best. (2007, 2008, and 2009 rides here for comparison.) Sir Hubert Opperman, whom the ride commemorates, was Australia's greatest endurance cyclist.
There were plenty of reasons it was good, but most of all it was good because I was far fitter than I've been for a while. Having dropped some weight (about six kilograms) and putting in some hard miles in the leadup has made me a much stronger rider, enough to realise dropping another six kilograms would make me even better.
There were 11 of us in the Lairs peloton this year, riding from Tooberac, doing a big loop around Shepparton, crossing briefly into NSW before heading through Echuca to Rochester.
The weather conditions were perfect, still and warm during both day and night, and not a drop of rain. We were treated to both a delightful sunset but also the rise and company of the largest full moon in years. We made the most of the conditions too, speeding through the first couple of hundred kilometres before nightfall when the something unusual happened: we actually sped up.
Through the night we raced, sitting between 25km/h and 28km/h for long stretches and the miles fairly rolled by. We kept our rest breaks short thanks to the experience of some of our early rides when we paid the price of being slow out of controls. We had discussed earlier the option of extending the ride to a nice round 400km but for some reason enthusiasm diminished as the night drew on. Next year perhaps.
The only interruption to my otherwise perfect ride was a puncture at kilometre 336, about two kilometres from the football club were were to sleep. Quickly fixed, we were back on our way and I was able to full enjoy three hours sleep until were were up at six and on the road at seven. The last 30 kilometres into Rochester coincided with the sunrise. The brass band kicked up as we rode down the main street and the small crowd clapped and cheers as we pulled in to the park by the Oppy statue for the traditional round of backslaps and handshakes and team photographs. I'm a little tired this afternoon, but stoked that such a tough ride went so well for all of us.