RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride day one – Mount Gambier to Nelson
They’re a resilient lot, these RACV Great Vic Bike Ride participants. Under a dispiriting grey sky, alternating between a constant light curtain of drizzle and heavier falls, more than 5,000 riders arrived, set up and bedded down for the night. Despite the trying conditions, there was hardly a grumble of complaint to be heard; spirits were high and the riders drifted off to sleep to the sound of a covers band playing ‘Hotel California’.
For all of the summery sensations that song evokes, the reality was a little different through the night. However, besides the drip of rain on nylon and the rustling of tents in the gusty breeze, a quiet air of anticipation settled over the campsite. And then, as the sky lightened, the sound of tent zippers spread and the riders emerged from their cocoons, ready to begin their week in another world on the RACV Great Vic.
The Mount Gambier community were hugely supportive of the event. Mount Gambier councillor, Andrew Lee, who was down at the finish line to see the riders off, spoke with heartfelt enthusiasm about the excitement that the event brought. “It’s a big event for us… in a town of 27,000, to have 5,000 people visiting, it’s a big proportion! It’s something the town’s really gotten behind,” he said. “We really appreciate that we were chosen to be the start site of the ride on its thirtieth anniversary,” he continued, before adding with a smile, “I promise next time you come down the weather won’t be like this!”
Most riders were on the road before 9am, setting off into the bluster with wide smiles and excitement. As they passed through the starting line, there was singing and dancing and a real energy in the air.
Today was a relatively short day, distance-wise, at 42km – a chance for the riders to stretch their legs and iron out the kinks. The conditions added a degree of difficulty, but spectacular scenery of wild beaches and Mount Gambier’s famous blue lake were ample consolation. Within a few hours, having battled against the gusty conditions and that intermittent drizzle, the riders started to trickle into the campsite, receiving their first official meal of the event and pitching their tents across the rolling fields just out of Nelson.
This campsite is a nice demonstration of the remarkable logistical reach of the event, and the community spirit it injects along the route. The original location of the campsite had to be changed at the last minute due to flooding, and with short notice a local farmer generously offered his paddocks for the event’s use.
With an undulating 74km to Portland on the cards for tomorrow, the riders will be hoping for more placid conditions – and hopefully some slightly warmer temperatures as well! Nonetheless, there’s plenty of cosy community spirit to go around and keep enthusiasm up. The enormous adventure that is the 2013 RACV Great Vic Bike Ride is underway, and with 42km completed, we’ve been across state borders, seen some spectacular scenery and enjoyed the warm hospitality of two wonderful towns. We can’t wait to tell you more from the ride over the coming days.
For photos of the day, visit Bicycle Network’s Flickr.
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