Thursday, April 11, 2013

Murray to Moyne: Riding from the Murray River to the ocean for a noble cause.

Little did I know when I bought my Vivente World Randonneur touring bike in early February, that a mere nine weeks later I would be taking part in a 536km relay bike ride. With the endorphins still buzzing through my body as I type this, I am proud to say: last weekend I rode with the Kerang District Health (KDH) Team and over 1200 other riders in the 27th annual Murray to Moyne Bike Ride.

A charity ride that has raised millions of dollars for hospitals and health services across Victoria, the Murray to Moyne begins at Mildura, Swan Hill and Echuca, and all riders stop overnight in Hamilton before continuing on to Port Fairy. It is in memory of well-known Port Fairy long-distance cyclist Graham Woodrup, who was tragically killed while training in 1992.

My riding buddy, Trish, encouraged me to join her and the rest of the Kerang District Health Team for the 2013 ride – assuring me, I could easily maintain the 22km per hour average speed needed to do the ride…

Trish and I arrived in Kerang at 7.30am Saturday and met the rest of the team before loading our bikes onto the very impressive custom-made bike trailer and heading to Swan Hill for the start of the ride. The KDH Team is organised by Rob Mason and Heather Mortlock and sponsored by Scott Wishart’s Kerang Custom Joinery. This year’s riders were: Scott Wishart, Sarah Archard, Margy and Max Christian, Colin O’Brien, Judy Reiffel, Rob McPhail, Jerzy Chaberka, Clinton Hancock, Michael Coldham, Merril Stuijfzand, Trish Kinsey and myself. Our support crew were bus drivers, John Archard, Bruce Laity and John Rumbold along with massage therapy students, Zali and Shelly from the Murray College in Echuca.

The first thing I learnt upon arrival in Swan Hill was, I had been training with flat tyres… I thought they were okay but apparently my 700x35c tyres only had about 20psi in them instead of 60 - 80psi. It was a good training technique I decided; suddenly I was finding my bike easier to pedal and a whole lot faster.

The team was split into three groups depending on cycling strength/speed for the relay ride; one group would ride while the other two groups rested on the buses. Trish and I were in the middle group with Margy, Michael and Sarah. Our first leg was 30km and we maintained an average speed of 28km/hr (I thought you told me I only had to do 22km/hr Trish?!).

Our next stint was 33km with poor Margy coming off second best midway along at a dangerous railway crossing at Wycheproof – skinny racing tyres and railway tracks do not mix and Margy ended up with a nasty cut above her right eye and numerous bruises necessitating a trip back to Birchip Hospital for five stiches before she was able to join up with us again at Horsham.

After the heat of the afternoon and fast pace, Trish and I decided to drop down to the slower group for the third leg; a 20km night ride south of Horsham. I really enjoyed the night riding, the road was beautifully quiet apart from other bike teams and support vehicles coming past us and we had a tailwind making things pretty cruisy.

Back on the bus for a rest until Cavendish, I got my second wind and offered to tackle the final 27km into Hamilton (and I really wanted to see if I could ride 100km). All I can say is, “Thank God it was dark and I couldn’t see the hills!” I set off with “power rider” Max, Sarah and Michael. We zoomed along at a fair pace and by the time we arrived at Hamilton after 10pm, I had clocked up 110km for the day… and that night, slept very well in my swag on the floor at the Hamilton Showgrounds.

The next day we headed off around 7.30am for the final 96km stretch from Hamilton to the finish in Port Fairy. There was no relay, you could either ride the whole way or have a rest on the support bus for part of the way.

I decided to see what it would be like to cycle the whole way… and I discovered it was hard, damn hard with hills and a headwind. Still I learnt about using my gears more effectively and after a while, discovered the joys of “drafting”.

The rest of my team were way ahead or riding behind me or having a rest on the support bus and I was chugging away at a steady 23km/hr average speed by myself until a big group of riders from the Children’s Cancer Centre Foundation went around me and shouted to “hook on”. I was amazed at the difference it made, riding in the slipstream of the rider in front of me. Drafting can easily save you about 30% of the energy needed to maintain speed and will literally “pull” you up hills, suddenly I was averaging over 28km/hr with very little effort. I rode with them for about 20km, until they stopped for a rest and then I was back to chugging on my own. Later I rode with two blokes from Melbourne, by drafting they helped me up and down hills and into the headwind for about 15km until I couldn’t keep up with them any longer.

Our support bus stopped 17km out of Port Fairy and Trish, Judy, Merril and Rob joined me for the final ride towards Port Fairy. The rest of our team had already arrived at the finish; they rode back to meet us and we all rode the last kilometre together.

Over the two days I rode 206km, raised money for Kerang District Health (overall our team raised in excess of $14,000), learnt a lot more about bike riding (and tyre pressure), and thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the sense of achievement I felt at the end.

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