Rolling with the GreatVic
Imagine taking 4000 bicycle riders across 527 kilometres over nine days, housing them, feeding them and helping everyone stay safe. In December, I wrote about my remarkable nine-day adventure in My GreatVic. But there’s another story to be told. It’s about the amazing support structure that makes the GreatVic great.
You see, it’s not just a ride. The GreatVic is a rolling bike festival. Every night there’s a new camp for bicycle riders to roll into. Each afternoon, we rode beneath the blue inflatable ‘FINISH’ arch and along the festival site’s ‘main street’. Here, food vendors sold milkshakes, ice creams, coffee, and potato swirls. A bicycle shop solved mechanical problems and an outdoor supplies store filled the gap for camping essentials. And there were always one or two not-for-profit groups local to the area, selling toasties or sizzling sausages to raise funds.
Jane and I always finished our ride with chocolate milkshakes to refuel before collecting our luggage and finding our tent. Two bags each, weighing less than 20kgs combined. That was the luggage limit per person. Each morning, we’d pack our bags, hand them to the friendly guy on our allocated luggage truck and then our bags would be waiting for us at the next festival site. Our tent for the night would also be waiting and, already set up.
The GreatVic caters for a variety of camping options. You can use your own tent and set it up yourself. Or you can pay some extra dollars to have a tent supplied, assembled and dismantled for you. That’s what we chose and it was a good choice for the ease it brought.
As well as this canvas community of tents, each festival site had a large marque – known as Café de Canvas – for dining, drinking and dancing. Every night there was entertainment – a band in the marque, a movie on a huge outdoor screen and drinks at the Spokes Bar. A quiet night, early to bed, was also a realistic option.
…an astonishing logistical feat.
Providing meals, entertainment, toilets and showers at a different site every day as well as organising 4000 riders before, during and after each day of riding, is an astonishing logistical feat.
The mobile kitchens served 12000 meals each day with lunch being served on the road. Seven shower trucks provided for 100 showers at a time. (And our showers were always warm.) Eight toilet trucks accommodated for the festival site and a band of port-a-loos were located along each day’s route. Water refill stations were situated at each festival site as well as at each morning tea, lunch and afternoon rest areas. A fleet of fifty semitrailers carried the festival from site to site and 200 vehicles supported the ride.
The support vehicles included motor bikes carrying event marshals and first aid care. Their presence throughout the route was reassuring as we rolled through landscapes unfamiliar and roads unknown. There were also mini-buses known as ‘sag wagons’ towing a trailer purpose-built for carrying bikes. The sag wagons picked up riders who couldn’t finish the day’s riding because of sickness, tiredness, injury or mechanical problems that couldn’t be resolved.
Then there were the WARBYs (We Are Right Behind You) who ride the route as volunteers giving mechanical and moral support to riders. We didn’t need to use the sag wagon nor the WARBYs but knowing they were there as a back-up was heartening.
I still had to push my pedals and see my wheels moving across the miles but, knowing this amazing support structure was with me, made My GreatVic much easier and enjoyable.