Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Oppy 2013



Team Modus Oppyrandos pose at the Oppy statue in Rochester

It can be a long hard ride, The Oppy, as if I needed a reminder. The Audax Australia Fleche Opperman All Day Trial is named after Australia's greatest endurance cyclist Sir Hubert Opperman and requires riders to cover a minimum of 360km in 24 hours. The Victorian event is always well attended for a couple of reasons: it is very well organised and the surrounding countryside is generally pretty flat which makes for pleasant riding. I've said before that the Oppy is one of my favourite rides, mainly because of the camaraderie in the bunch and the pleasure of night riding in a small group. It's also a good chance to catch up with so many of the wonderful Audax community. This was my fifth Oppy after rides in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2011.

This year's edition, for me at least, was tough. We had a smaller bunch than usual, five instead of the normal dozen or so. I felt fit, but in reality I think was a bit underdone because of the lingering effects of a chest cold I caught after the Alpine Classic week, which also meant I hadn't done as many miles in training as I probably should have. For some reason I just couldn't get comfortable on the bike either, which is odd. It was my first 200km+ outing on the Thorn and while I've done over 2000km on it in shorter rides I don't think I have my set up quite perfect yet. And then there was the wind, more of which later.

The course we took is a familiar one which we've ridden successfully before. We had a strong team and excellent support from Bill and Pete - ever-smiling and ready with delicious and welcome food at every  checkpoint. Steve's superb organisational work before the ride meant everything ran super smoothly. We even had favourable winds from the south and south-west for much of the course.

The first couple of hundred kilometres of the Oppy are generally pretty easy in my opinion. You settle in on the bike, burn off some nervous energy and get a feel for who well you're going to go when day turns to night. It's only after dark that the ride becomes a test of the mind and the legs.

The St James control is around the 200km mark on this course. Ken, who has ridden this course several times during his own glittering Oppy career, reckons once you make St James, you're know you'll finish the ride. For me, that was where the doubts began. Until that point, I'd been going well, enjoying the  scenery and the lovely little country towns we were passing through. Once out of St James we turned west and the battle began.

Now it's fair to say that the other riders in the grandly named Modus Oppyrando team were made of somewhat stouter stuff. For most of the remainder ride I found myself sheltering from the wind on someone's wheel, hanging on for grim death. Now and again I'd drop off the pace until someone noticed and the group would ease up until I was back on. I can't say I seriously entertained thoughts of abandoning but several times it did enter my mind how nice it would be to hope in the support truck at the next stop. Everyone has flat spots during a long ride, but mine seemed to drag on forever.

We reached our long rest stop at Echuca around 2.30am for a couple of hours of blessed sleep before we were back on the road for the final 30km to Rochester, where a heroes welcome and slap-up breakfast awaited. Our numbers swollen by the ranks of the Petit Oppy riders, I again sat in the bunch and made up the numbers. Always a welcome sight, the main street of Rochester couldn't come too soon.

It's a testament to the strength of the other members of the team that our average speed was comparable to other years when we rode without an adverse wind in the final stages and when there were a lot more people to share the work at the front. To enjoy Audax riding is to enjoy a challenge, and there was plenty for me at the Oppy this time. Even so, I'll be back next year for another crack.

1640km so far this year.


1 comment:

Chris Edie said...

Sounds like you earned the breakfast. Well done!