FRIDAY 29 NOVEMBER
We slept well on the airport runway, err, ‘runfield’. No planes tried landing thankfully. It was cool in the morning but there was no rain and everyone was excited about today’s ride. The route had two highly notable features. The first was riding the Great Ocean Road’s most scenic section, including past the Twelve Apostles. The second section of note was climbing the infamous Lavers Hill.
As per normal, we were out early, before the route officially opened. Today there were a good number of riders who “snuck” out earlier than us. It didn’t seem like too many of them were pulling over at the viewpoints – I think that they were more worried about the climb than they were seeing the sights. We only made one stop, at the Twelve Apostles. Being the most famous site on the Great Ocean Road, they’ve built a very fancy car park, information centre and smooth concrete walkway out to the view points. They ask you to walk your bike on the path but we rode – the only other person out there was fellow marshal Jerome – he rode also. Maybe not the best look for three marshals but we’ll keep it quiet.
From Twelve Apostles we made our way to the first rest stop of the day at the 37k mark. Nancy and I shared this stop with 4 other marshals. The stop had separate entrances and exits but it was still a bit chaotic getting everyone through safely. The stop featured a right turn down a side road where they put the toilets. So we had riders trying to cut the corner only to end up running into the toilet doors or people leaving the toilets. Most of the riders follow instruction well but it only takes one to not hear you and often the riders behind the “offender” become lemming-like. Before you know it several school groups are in tow and heading the wrong way. The marshal gig is really pretty fun, not too stressful, except when you get a group of lemmings busting out of the prescribed path – which happens at least once a day on most spots.
Today’s hot topic at the rest stop was all about Lavers Hill – How long is it? How far to the start of the climb? What’s the gradient? Will I die riding up it? Can I walk if I have to? For the record, the answers were: 20k, 2k, 4-10% but only short 10% sections, no you won’t die and yes, walking is ok.
We left the rest stop at 11AM and cruised up the hill. Last time we rode it was way back in 2008 and to be honest, it seemed easier this time. We didn’t get passed by anyone, passed heaps of people and made the top (from the rest stop) in exactly one hour. A good number of people were walking the steep sections and many folks had their bikes parked next to them upside down – the universal position if you want the sag to stop for you. We tried to encourage the really tired young ones, plus a few oldies as well. Our voices got a good workout calling “passing, on your right, thank you”.
We had lunch at Lavers Hill public primary school. And what a crazy scene that was. I’d put the crowd there at more than 1,500 people. It was the lunch stop so we stopped and joined the bunch. People surrounded the small school, which yes, was still having classes today. I suspect that teachers had a hard time keeping students focused– perhaps it would have been a good day for something other than math, writing or another difficult subject – a good PE/Art day maybe.
All of the riders were held up again following lunch. We’re not sure if this was just to keep us from reaching camp too soon or perhaps there was another incident – we never did learn. Camp is in the very small berg of Beech Forest which is really not much of a town at all. We are staying on a large farm, camped in what is called “pasture number two.” While this sounds somewhat idyllic, it isn’t quite that. The farmer clearly only pulled the farm animals from the field very recently, maybe even this morning. While they have tried to pick up evidence of farm animals, you have to walk with great care not to put your foot in the remains of a fresh cow pie. We made it to the showers without too many issues but it will be a completely different story tonight when it’s dark and one can’t pick out safe passage.
Tonight is our second to last night of the trip and everyone is starting to think about making it to the finish (and washing our shoes before we put them in our luggage – yuk!). We ride tomorrow to another small town called Dean’s Marsh. Cadel Evans, the only Australian winner of the Tour de France, is from these parts. I don’t suspect that he’ll be joining us in pasture number two this evening but you never know, maybe tomorrow we’ll see him on the road.
And oh yeah, I did some benchmarking today. Below are photos of the water tea/coffee station and the dish/clothes washing stations. These are highly customized inventions that Bicycle Network pulls behind a ute. They make it possible for us to have hot tea/coffee/milo on demand, wash our clothes and use our own dishes/cutlery on the ride. Cycle Oregon should look at these systems as an improvement opportunity – some good ideas here… The food on the other hand, well, Bicycle Network could learn a lot from the Cycle Oregon caterers….