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.20161202-cafe-de-canvas-img_8202

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A panoramic view of our Day 7 festival site near Bells Beach.

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Some tent options include inflatable mattresses.

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Toilet truck at the Grampians festival site.

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Our friendly luggage truck guy waiting for our bags.

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Tyre pumps were at available at each campsite before setting out for the day.

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Lunch stops had water refill stations and First Aid tents.

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Morning tea stop with bike racks available.

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Event Marshall helping to keep riders safe.

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The SAG wagon picked up riders who couldn’t finish the day’s riding.

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On the tail of a volunteer WARBY.

 

 

 

18 Comments on “Rolling with the GreatVic

    • The WARBYs are wonderful Iris. I noticed they were gently and quietly there if they were needed. Attentive but not imposing. A couple of times we’d pulled over by the roadside to take photos or adjust clothing or have snack, and a WARBY slowed down to check if we needed help. They make a fantastic contribution to the ride. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good question 🙂 There was a clothes washing service available for a couple of hours each day. We took enough kit for our first four days of riding and then washed on the rest day.

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  1. Hi Gail
    As you noted, the logistics are amazing. Something an army would be proud of! I have trouble getting my head around the idea of 4000 cyclists beginning (and hopefully ending) each day. Well done to the GreatVic organisers.
    Jen

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, the numbers are unbelievable. Because riders could leave camp anytime between 6.30am and 9am, and people left at different times, the spread of cyclists along the roads was quite good. In fact some days, GreatVic riders could be stretched across 50kms of the route. So, that lessened the sense of being in a peloton packed with thousands.

      This was the 33rd GreatVic and I think the organisers have learnt a lot about staging events of this scale.

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  2. Great read Gail, and congratulations to you both for entering and finishing the ride in such good spirits. Glenys

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great post Gail. I imagined there would have to be extensive support provided but was amazed how well thought out the whole festival was, even down to the ‘sag wagon’. Having your tent set up for you must have been a relief after a full day riding.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Gail, Yes, having a tent ready to go when you arrived at each destination would be a great advantage especially if you were wet and cold. Luckily, you had fine weather for the ride.
    I think your two posts about the Great Vic Ride would encourage other cyclists to take on the challenge of this event given it is so well organised.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We were very lucky with the weather Margaret. Some said it was the best weather the event has had for years. I hope it does encourage other cyclists to ride the GreatVic. For me, it’s given a wonderful sense of achievement.

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