The Oppy: a 24 hour festa di bici

All good ideas start somewhere. As do… very silly ideas. This one I am planting firmly on the shoulders of Sarah-Anne, who messaged me on the 2nd of March to ask about the Oppy. She had been thinking about it for some time, had it as a bucket list item, but had left it late to organise and wanted to pick my brain. She’d seen I’d done the 600km and the 400km Audax rides back to back the two weekends before, how were my legs… was I up for the Oppy in a few weeks time?

Of course, I said no immediately (may not be true) and wished her the best of luck in her future long ride (also untrue).

I did mention it to Max (my husband) first as a “so I’m thinking of the Oppy this year” even though I’d promised that I was done long rides for after the Super Series was completed (for a run down of how that went, see the blog here) and I had no intention of riding the Oppy. After giving me a rather long hard look, he rolled his eyes and we started thinking of how we could make it happen.

Sigh. Here we go again.

The Fleche Opperman All Day Trial (or “The Oppy”) is a 24-hour team time trial held annually by Audax Australia. Teams of three to five “machines” must ride together at least 360km and finish at a designated location in each state… 

Planning for The Oppy: 3 weeks to go

The first decision we had to make was where we were going to end our ride. Sarah Anne lives in NSW, and I live in VIC, so we had to choose which state had the best ending. As the idea of finishing in Manly (a city center) wasn’t as appealing as Rochester (country town) it was Victoria that one that round.

Next, where to start from? Sarah Anne had mapped out a first draft route that started in Jindabyne (where she’s located) and ended in Rochester, but at 500km and 5000+m of climbing i thought it might be a little… hilly. As well, I had some rather complicated logistics to work out int terms of making this entire thing work. Namely that I had to teach my uni classes all day Friday fro 9:00am until 5:30pm. However, the idea of teaching until 5:30pm on Friday, then driving 7 hours to the start location, then riding for the next 24 hours had very little appeal. We needed to find a more ‘central’ location for the both of us.

Thinking, thinking, thinking… what about Albury-Wodonga? It’s where the Oppy ended last year, it’s a border town (a bridge joins together NSW and VIC) and it felt like, in the spirit of things, a perfect start to our ride. With all the border closures, us vs them mentality, and separation of the states of Australia during 2020 I was really conscious that I wanted to pull us together in 2021. So the idea of a team that had team members from two states, a route that would cross the boarders, and a start/end location that pulled it all together held a lot of promise. A few double checks with Audax and the ride organisers confirmed that we were fine to do this (in fact, they encouraged it!) and we had our start location. Next up: the route.

The Oppy is unique in that we had a lot of choices in terms of our route: pretty much we would make all the decisions, aside from the ending point. I’d ridden/crewed three Oppy’s before, two that were largely point-to-point routes, another that looped in and out of a central location. As we were planning on doing this as an unsupported ride (i.e.: no follow car, no one else but the riders, all supplies and food purchased on the way) we’d need to be pretty strategic about our route. Most of the long rides I now do with Audax are unsupported so it was something I had experience with as a rider, but I also had faith and trust in the RO of those rides to make sure the route passed by food/coffee/water stops at appropriate spots along the way. For the Oppy it was up to me to make all those decisions.

I felt both confident and worried about this role. Confident as I knew how to map a route, I knew some of the area we would be riding, and I had a rough idea of how fast/far I could travel in between stops. Nervous because if there were any mistakes it would solely be my fault. During the day this could probably be problem solved pretty easily. But if I screwed up our night time route it could potentially be dangerous. Too far without water, an accident because of rough terrain, wildlife issues… A million thoughts whirred through my mind as I mapped our initial routes, and once I’d decided on a route choice I tried not to second guess myself too often. I was the best person on our team to do this, and I had to be confident in the experience I’d gained over the last four years of riding. I also knew, hand on heart, that I did NOT want to do a super flat route, so it would be a bit tricker than just riding the roads around Rochester.

I decided to go with a mix of what I knew, and what would be new. We’d do loop at the start and the end (therefore we could use our two parked cars as a checkpoint and stash our stuff in the boots), then a point to point that covered routes I’d done before. There were a few unknown sections (and a lot of Google street viewing to make sure I didn’t send us down any off-road sections!) but overall I felt pretty confident in the route. I also made a few contingency plans in some sections where we could cut out sections for safety reasons. The only thing I wasn’t super happy with was the long night section without anywhere to stop, aside from dunny blocks, for water or supplies, but I figured as long as we knew that up-front we could carry our own food for that stretch.

By the end of the week we had our start and finish locations. We had the route draft of our route. What we didn’t have were enough riders to make up the Oppy team. It was time to start recruiting.

Planning for The Oppy: 2 weeks to go

Sarah Anne said she had a friend who might be keen, but she was trying to convince her that she could go without sleep. I promised her that after the Oppy she’d sleep really well, and just like that we had our third rider: Sheryl. We now had the minimum number of riders for an Oppy (3) but I was keen on a fourth. During the night time it can be pretty lonely being the ‘third wheel out the back’ as that’s when the sleepies can really hit, so I took to Instagram to call out for another rider. I had some ideas of who might respond, and sure enough, within minutes of me posting, a DM came back “ooo you’ve tickled my interest. Where do you plan to start though? A-B route or loop?”

I knew she was in.

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One zoom call later and we had our team of 4

Other than confirming we were all committed to this idea, we also had to agree on our team name. Something that really captured the aim of the ride: girls having fun riding an all night bike party peppered with stops for food delights and occasional snoozes in bus stops if required. Something that wasn’t too obviously “female” for our all women team. Something maybe that highlighted the mix of cultures we all brought to the table … I’ve got it.

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Planning for The Oppy: 1 week to go

The time started flying by as we planned for the Oppy. The girls decided that I’d take on the team captain role, which meant I was in charge of the administrative side of things as well. So yes, there was a spreadsheet. We organised drop bags (sending clothes by the post), accommodation, music playlist, and finally nailed down our route and the checkpoints. Questions and answers flew back and forth on our WhatsApp channel about lights, charging, batteries, high vis, reflective gear, and everything else the girls would need on an all night bike party in country Victoria.

We booked another zoom call a fews days before the event for last minute check-ins, and the question was raised that I knew had been on everyones mind: what if we can’t ride together? What if someone wants to quit? What if there’s a mechanical? What if someone cracks it? All these were discussed, and it came down to a few statements: We were doing this for fun. We weren’t being paid to do this. And we absolutely needed to be safe. Any decisions we needed to make would consider safety first, and we would go from there. If we had to change our plans along the way, so be it.

A few days before the start we all became professional weather stalkers. We packed, unpacked, and re-packed our bags in line with what it looked like we’d face: rain. Rain for at least a few hours during the day. And probably a fair whack of wind. In good news, the night would be dry and still, so as long as we weren’t too soggy and exhausted from our day fight with the weather we’d have a good night of it. But there was a chance it would be pretty cold overnight, and going by my most recent experience my body would stop generating its own heat once I got tired. So in my car boot I threw in another layer and a buff for each of girls, just in case we needed more clothes for the last loop. I also packed another layer in my saddle bag, just in case.

In order to have my car parked at Rochester to act as our support for that checkpoint I needed to drive up on Thursday and leave my car there until Sunday. I pulled up late Thursday afternoon, parked down a side street, and got out of my car to have a look around and scout out possible options (something well lit, visible, but not in the way of other cars or illegally parked). A man approached me and asked if I was up here for the Audax cycling event (it’s a big deal in Rochester for us to all come up here every two years). After a few minutes of chatting, Peter suggested I park in the back lot of the police station, and after chatting with the local officer it was confirmed that they were absolutely fine with me doing this. Parking sorted! Thanks Rochester for the support!

I then got into the car with Max and we drove up to Albury where we’d stay for a couple nights so I could work. The night before the Oppy our team all met for the first time at dinner, and it was like a meeting of long lost relatives. It felt like we’d known each other forever, and we all just clicked. To say there was a bit of excitement in the air was an understatement!

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Festa di bici from L-R: Sarah Anne, Sheryl, Jo, Tiff (photo by Max)

We were ready.

The Oppy

Loop 1: Wodonga to Wodonga

We set off from the bowling club car park in Wodonga, which was last year’s Oppy finishing location. It was a stark difference. Last time I was here there were a lot of teams rolling around, as groups from Canberra, Victoria, and New South Wales all ended here. This year it was just us: Festa di bici and my family who came to cheer us off. Max had bought the team coffee, and we all stood around chatting with nervous excitement as we waited for the clock to hit 8:00am so we would head off.

The first leg of our Oppy had us heading east on the Murray Valley Highway towards Tallangatta, following Lake Hume. There was a rail trail on this section, so if the roads were busy or we had any trouble with traffic we could jump off the road and onto the trail. After 3km of the rail trail we decided that the highway was the best option for us, even though it would add more elevation on to our route due to the undulations. But the weather was lovely, the traffic minimal, and we flew along in single file through this very scenic section. Jo and I had a few chats about pacing, and she said that she was depending on me to set the right pace for the day. No worries, I’ve done this before. I had a glance down at my Garmin screen and swapped it from map to heart rate. 165. Sigh. Looked like it was going to be one of those days for me where I ran really high heart rate for the first part of the day until the anxiety and excitement calmed down. I switched my screen back to the map so I didn’t have to look at it anymore.

Next up was the turn into Mount Granya State Park, and our first big climb of the day. It was at this point I started to realise that my two weeks off the bike weren’t quite enough, and that I was still carrying some fatigue from the past month of events. The girls all shot off the front, and I stayed back so that I could take pictures. And so they wouldn’t hear me wheezing as I tried to haul myself up the climb. Looks like I was going to be the weakest link on this team when it came to the climbs.

I had our first checkpoint at Granya, and had done some research on what might be open for food options on this tour. Unfortunately the place I had suggested we stop at was renovating their restaurant and wouldn’t be open when we came through, so this would be a “food from the pockets” kinda stop. At the dunny block.

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My lack of breathing ability aside, it was a magical loop and I’m so glad that we decided to put this one in. We had lucked out so far with very little to no rain, and got through the first section without any drama. I took loads of photos through this very pretty loop, and would 10/10 recommend to do this one again. Just magic!

Crossing back into NSW, and then back into VIC we all felt pretty good. Rolling through Albury the heavens opened up on us for a few minutes and gave us a good soaking, but by the time we rolled back into Wodonga 10 minutes later we had dried out again. It had been 5 hours on/off the bike and I was very much looking forward to sitting down for lunch. I’d even scouted out a great option just along our route, had checked the menu and the opening hours, and was very excited about the food. We’d parked our second vehicle right near the cafe so that the girls could drop off/pick up supplies, everything was running smoothly.

Except the cafe wasn’t open.


A quick supplies top up at the car, and we got back on the bikes again to find something down the road. We pulled into the first cafe we could see, only to find out they were closing right then and that we could only get take away. FINE! We ordered whatever they had in their fridge and sat outside on the bench to inhale the not ideal food. Bleurgh. Sarah Anne decided to try her luck up the road, and let us know she’d text us when she found something. Our option ended up being quick, but not tasty. Her option was delicious, but super slow. Needless to say this ended up costing us a bit of time, but we got fed, hydrated, and caffeinated. Eventually.

Leg 2: From Lunch to Dinner

The next stretch took us from Wodonga to Wangaratta via the rather climby Beechworth. None of us were feeling particularly revived by our lunch stop, and the food was sitting a bit heavily in us as we headed into the headwinds and the hills. The roads felt ridiculously dead, and the false flat drag towards the climbs sapped any energy that I had left. I felt very ill, and as soon as we hit the climb it was just awful. I finally pulled over to strip off the layers of clothes I was wearing in hopes that would help, as I was getting hold/cold sweats and really suffering through these hills. I found this really frustrating, as it was the hilly sections on this route that I had intentionally planned as I loved climbing. Apparently not today. Mentally this section was tough as I watched the girls casually drop me on the climb. I’m not used to feeling weak on rides, and it was not a comfortable feeing. Time to dig into my bag of mental toughness tricks and sit with the discomfort. At least trying to sort out my headspace gave me something to do during the climb.

This was the only photo I took through here. Overtaking them wasn’t a risk at all. Trust me.

Finally arriving in Beechworth felt like heaven, especially as we were able to stop at the Beechworth Bakery and they had cinnamon donuts 🙂 Unfortunately on the climb up Jo’s feet started to experience the agony which is hot foot, so it was now two of us taking our shoes off at every stop. Misery loves company, but in this case I would have been glad to be suffering alone. Still. Cinnamon donuts. Can’t go wrong with two of those.

Our next section was the rail trail down to Wangaratta, but yet again the traffic was really light so we opted to stay on the road instead. I’m strong downhills and into a headwind, so the “Tiff train” was happy to take lead on this next section. Mostly because I was feeling some level of guilt (embarrassment? Sense of duty?) as I’d been suffering so much the last few sections and had needed the team to slow down for me. I was still really struggling to get my body and heart in alignment, and was definitely not pacing myself for an all nighter. Instead, I was depending on my endurance tank and mental strength to see me through to Euroa. After that I knew if I blew up at least I could tick along on the flats. So I was burning matches a plenty trying to keep going.

The Wangaratta APCO was our planned dinner stop, and before you knock it for being a ‘service station dinner’ you need to see this one. It’s magic, I stopped here on our 600 a month before and knew it would be perfect for our stop. Judging from how the team sagged into this servo it wasn’t just me who was stumbling through the day. It had been a lot harder than we’d all been expecting.

Leg 3: The night is dark and full of toilet stops

We headed out from the APCO on what were now very familiar roads (for me at least) as I had mapped us to follow the “Hume and Hovel 600” roads I had done not long before, but it was a nice change doing them in the light (Strava says I’ve done the Wang-Benalla segment 4 times now, and every time it’s been in the dark). Which meant by the time we hit Glenrowan we got to see the giant Ned Kelly statue in all his glory. After that it was the rolling hills into the sunset and towards Benalla. I was still having a hard time breathing, and just couldn’t seem to get my system to calm down. Every small rise felt much harder than it needed to. Mentally I was doing okay, the ride was just physically tougher than I thought it needed to be.

When we rolled into Benalla it was dark. Proper dark. The moon hadn’t risen yet, and we felt the drop in temperature quite strongly. We also started seeing a lot of wildlife, more than I had expected, and more than I’d ever seen through this section before. A call out for a toilet stop had us doing the “where is the blue toilet block sign” hunt yet again, and we all looked forward to the mini break.

This dunny block had a bench outside, so I laid down on it to give my neck and shoulders a break. Arms crossed behind my head I starred up into space. Jo came over and asked it I was okay. I’m okay, I said, just not doing as well as I’d like to be at this point. Just not feeling super strong. But I can still tap out the kms, it just might not be pretty. Spirits were fine all around. We were just all… tired. And we had a decision to make: what should we do once we hit Violet Town in an hour?

I had made a loop out from Violet Town into the Strathbogie Ranges back into Euroa. Or we could cut out that section and head straight into Euroa. I’d been trying to save some legs and energy for the climb into the Ranges, but knew it was really the descent that would be more difficult as we’d have to be really heavy on the brakes and take it super slow because of the wildlife. I had originally put this section is as I tend to get bored tapping out flats all day long, and thought it might add some interest to our ride and break up the tedium of flat roads. Little did I know that we would all be craving some monotony at that point. We sat there in silence for a couple minutes, until finally Jo said what we’d all been thinking: let’s skip the Bogies and head to Euroa. She repeated our mantra back to us that we had decided on before we got on the bikes: We were doing this for fun. We weren’t being paid to do this. And we absolutely needed to be safe. Did we feel safe heading into the Strathbogie ranges at this point in the ride? Not really.

Team decision made, Jo and I agreed we’d take the route I mapped us to Violet Town, and at that point we would plan our Euroa leg. Spirits lifted a little bit as the choice had been made, we headed out of Benalla towards my next new section. As I’ve mentioned, a lot of this section was from the 600 Hume and Hovel, but one of my least favourite parts of that ride is the sections we have to ride on the Hume Highway. I’ve always wondered if there was a way around it, and this next part of the route would explore that. I’d spent a bit of time looking at Google Street view, and found us a few sections I thought would work. And if they didn’t, we could double back to the Hume.

They turned out mostly fine (phew!), even if the road surface wasn’t superb. It got us off the Hume highway and onto some quiet back roads. Yes it was longer, but on a ride of this distance it added kms on where I wanted them, so we were good. Unfortunately the route I’d mapped us into Violet Town was… not ideal. I’d used Ride with GPS and asked it to hit bike paths when possible. I’m not sure who tagged this section as a ‘bike path’ but it definitely not where we wanted to be (odd campgrounds, under tunnels, and lots of gravel). Jo guided us back to the main road, and we found the street with the dunny block for our picnic at 11:00pm. We all pulled another layer of clothes out of our bags at this stop. I now had added on a long sleeved base layer, a buff, and my long sleeved gloves. It was getting cold.

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Under the light of the dunny blocks Jo and I visited our options for getting to Euroa. Her GPS had a map on it, mine was ‘follow the line’ so once we went off my route I would be largely useless for directions, aside from what I could manage to memorise before we set out. Setting off, we felt pretty confident in our ability to get us to Euroa.

It just turned out we wouldn’t be able to do this on sealed roads…

The first surprise gravel section wasn’t too bad. There was a pretty clear line we could follow, and we just gave each other a lot of space. Sherly was bouncing quite a bit on my left, so I said she should follow my line instead. Turns out this was her first time ever on gravel (tough way to pop that cherry!). We all let out a sigh of relief once we hit the tarmac again. Don’t get me wrong, I love gravel (as does Jo and Sarah Anne) but not on a road bike on 28s at 80psi. That just hurts.

The next time we hit gravel we thought it might be another short section, but we were sorely mistaken. It was much longer, and much rougher. I felt my bike bouncing left to right as I ricocheted rocks off the rides of my tyres, and it took a lot of concentration just to stay upright and moving forward. My sore body was taking a beating, and I felt it reverberating up my arms and into my already sore neck. We all went silent as we focused on tackling our small section of the road. One hard section and I bounced off the saddle and came down again hard. My resilience cracked, and I swore a blue streak for a while. But slowing down wasn’t an option as it just made everything worse, so we cranked our way through the darkness.

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I had made jokes (not jokes) about the McDonald’s in Euroa being the highlight of this section, and I wasn’t wrong. I was indoors, and it was warm. We were all battered and bruised from the last sections, so a longer stop here was a good idea. But we’d made it. There were no more ‘surprises’ or hills planned, it was just an easy tap tap tap now for the last 110km or so back up to my car in Rochester. But this was also our last indoor stop. The last time we’d see lights and ‘civilisation’ until the end of the ride. Every thing from this point was outdoor stops, saddle bag food, and dunny block water top ups. We were fully on the night shift now.

It was time.

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For those who thought 3am karaoke was a euphemism for something else, let me tell you it is not. It has been the saving grace for me (and Thomas) on many a 24 hour night ride. Music can be a complete game changer, and on nights like these it was like a beacon of hope. Jo and I took point on the front, with Sarah Anne belting out the tunes behind me. I looked over at Jo and smiled. She let me know she was singing, quietly to herself, and it was enough. The mood lifted, and we kept tapping out the kms into the darkness.

Another checkpoint. Another dunny block.

One of the downsides of riding at night is the cold, which seemed to compound the need to stop and pee. Luckily I knew where a lot of the toilet blocks are in country Victoria (who knew that would come in handy!) so there weren’t too many bush wees. But each time we stopped it required a full strip off of clothes, which took time, and we kept cooling off a lot. Getting back on the bike it would take us all a long time to warm up again… and then some one would need to pee again.

To add to the fun, I thought I had mapped us along roads I’d done before and there would be no surprises. Turned out that was also not true. Ride with GPS must have a bit of a sense of humour, and we ended up being ‘told by Garmin’ to turn left onto a gravel track. The first time this happened I yelled out NOPE and we kept riding the same direction we’d been going. Jo would then need to have a look at her map to figure out where we could actually turn instead. We’d tap out the next section, and another gravel road turn would appear. NOT TODAY I’d say, and we kept going forward. It’s funny looking back at this as no one cracked or lost it at our constant stop/start/check the map/stop/start. We all just took it in our stride and accepted that this was where we were at. This team. Seriously couldn’t have asked for more from them.

We did end up having one long stretch on the Midland Highway, which at any other time of day would not have been fun at all. At this time of night it was pretty quiet, but after watching a few trucks fly past as we waited to turn onto it we made the decision to ride this single file. I stayed on the front (mostly because I had the speaker on the back of my bike so the girls could hear it behind me), and also because tapping out night kms into a long straight road was my forte. It was quite literally all I could do at this point. Move my legs in time with the beat of the music, and keep pedalling. There was no hope of me singing, I hardly had the energy to breathe. The lungs were still struggling, and my heart was tired. It had been a big month and the fatigue was taking its toll.

Roughly 17km later we finally saw the right hand turn that would lead us up to Rochester… but first, a pee stop. I can hold on to that km tapping rhythm for a long time, but once I stopped I came to a dead stop and it hit me hard how empty my tank was. I was so spent, and was running on fumes at this point. I had eaten all the food, drank all the water, and kept it up for this entire time, but at some point the endurance tank starts to run dry, and I was scraping the bottom. Feeling like it was best if I sat down at this point I pulled off to the side of the road and leaned my bike up against me. Because bike hugs make everything better, and it was a beautiful night for watching the stars.

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Back on the bikes we headed north, and the gradient of the road went up a little bit. The girls kept going forward, and I felt like I was falling backwards as they rolled off into the distance. My legs didn’t have anything left to give, but they could keep moving in circles and that’s what I did. It’s not like I didn’t know where they were going, and on those long straight country Victoria roads I could see them for kms anyways. Eventually I caught up to them (because they slowed down) and we rolled into Rochester and back to my car that I had parked almost 3 days earlier.

We parked our bikes up against the tree, grabbed food out of the boot, and jumped in the car, heaters on full. It was 6 degrees outside in the cold dark of the morning, and without our bodies generating any extra body heat we could feel it. I had packed extra layers of clothes in the car just in case, but we all still had one layer left in our saddle bags. Out came the rain jackets, layered over everything else, and we ate our stale hot cross buns in silence as Jo figured out how we could adapt our last loop to make sure we finished in time without killing ourselves in the process.

Loop 4: Rochester to Rochester

One of the Oppy rules is that you must ride at least 25km in the last two hours (so from 6am-8am) so we waited until 6am to set out from the car. Stepping out of my nice warm car and into the bitter chill of the pre-sunrise morning was hard. But not as hard as then stripping off my warm clothes at the dunny block before we did that last loop. Bib knicks. High in comfort. Low in convenience.

Off we set, following the map I had drawn us for that last loop. I thought we would start seeing a lot more red lights of other riders at this point, but maybe no one else did this same loop as it was dark and quiet on the roads out of Rochester. We rode two by two so we always had someone by our side to talk to, as it would be really easy at this point to slide into sleepy town. It’s also a nice time to reminisce about the ride and how it went. Jo and I were still in awe of how well the four of us had ridden together, and how after nearly 24 hours it still felt great being together. Even if individually we were all in pain and very tired, collectively, we were still good. Still, both Jo and I were shattered. Given we had ridden a 400km in the Otways the month before (with 5000m+ of climbing) we couldn’t figure out why this ride was so much harder, when on paper it should have been much easier.

Upon reflection, I think it’s because, for me at least, I was ‘in charge’ so never really mentally turned off and settled into that mindless zone where the brain stops thinking. All the other long rides I’d done I had depended on someone else to plan the route, the stops, and trusted that they would get it right. Last year’s Oppy I just showed up and rode my bike. This year I didn’t turn ‘off’ for the entire ride. In good news, this was the first 24 hour ride I’ve done where I didn’t get a single attack of the sleepies. No micro sleeps. No nodding off. In bad news, I think it also took a lot more out of me than I had banked on. It’ll be something I’ll need to keep in mind for when we do this again. Because you know an Oppy 2022 is already in the works for Festa di bici.

We kept looking over our shoulder at the sun that refused to rise. The sky was starting to change colour, from black to navy, but it wasn’t time yet. We turned left again, and started heading south. Crossing the Waranga Western Channel we hit the brakes. This was not a photo opportunity to be missed.

It had been a tough one, but we got through it together. I looked over at the two incredible women who were about to complete their first Oppy, their first 24 hour, and their longest distance ever, and congratulated them on doing something truely epic. And not just ‘doing it’, but finishing incredibly strong, both physically and mentally.

Pulling into Rochester at the end of an Oppy, with all the other teams gathering around the end, is an amazing moment. There are cheers, dazed stares, and conversations all around. We waited our turn to take the Oppy end pic, and started to hear the buzz behind us. Who? Them? They went how far?

Wait, Tiff you did what??

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Team wear all the layers

I loaded the bikes up on my car and drove us to breakfast at the secondary school. The first port of call was to get us in the warm showers, and there was discussion about if we could just stay there. Getting warm felt so good after a night of riding in the cold. Changing into clean (non-lycra) clothes, we headed into the gym where the locals had put on breakfast. I went over to Peter and thanked him again for the help parking my car. He smiled, and asked how we went on the ride. We did it, I said, we did it.

We did it indeed. We took the 2021 distance award for Victoria, and now hold the fourth longest distance ever for an all-female team across Australia (the record was set in 1996). In fact, all the big distances were set in the 90s: there hasn’t been an all-female team in 23 years which has done over 400. This year there were two, as the BNE Women’s Racing Team in Queensland set their new state record with a smashing 431km.

And to answer your question… Yes. We’re thinking about it.


  • Distance: 456 km with 2760 vertical
  • Elapsed time: 23 hours 35 minutes
  • Moving time: 18 hours 15 minutes
  • Average speed: 25 km/h
  • Average temperature: 14 degrees
    • Max temperature: 26 degrees
    • Min temperature: 6 degrees
  • Max heart rate: 180
  • Average heart rate: 141
  • Calories burnt: 7680

Postscript: From the Team

I asked the girls a few questions while I was writing the blog, and here are their thoughts on how the ride went.

Jo says:

The best part: taking the plunge and doing a tough challenge with three people you’ve never ridden with (yes that includes Tiff! We’ve known each other for a while & ride some of the same rides but never together). The team just gelled and it was the best feeling.

The worst part: hot foot. Need I say more. And probably a dodgy egg sambo.

The thing that surprised you the most : Even though it was tough, I still surprise myself at what I can accomplish if I put my mind to it. Seems arrogant but I didn’t train or think about the ride much leading up to it. I’m proud of the hard work I’ve done to get my body & mind into shape and I hope our experience encourages others to try something new.

One thing you learned/will take away from this ride: Taking things in my stride and not being too hard on myself or others. I’m naturally competitive and the last year I’ve tried to overcome some of the negative aspects that come with that. Being able to say “hey I’m here by choice… to have fun” makes it easier to speak up when you’re not comfortable with something (route/safety/plain tired etc). Having a team that shared these same values was more than I could ask for. When we needed to make route changes we just put our heads together and worked it out.

Sarah Anne says:

The best part: Riding bikes with three kick ar$e girls, challenging ourselves both individually and as a team, and literally laughing so hard I think my stomach muscles were the sorest part post ride. (What happens on the Oppy, stays on the Oppy)

The worst part: I have to think hard on this as I loved every blood minute of it. But, I forgot how cold I get when tired but that negative was short lived once we got back riding.

The thing that surprised you the most: After a lapse in training, my bodies ability to just get sh!t done still amazes me. This was helped by riding with a team who were all of the same mindset, look after each other, have fun, ride consistent and steady. Bowing to Tiff and Jo’s mega knowledge of these endurance events! They steadied the ship in legendary fashion.

One thing you learned/will take away from this ride: always trust your gut. I can pick things apart and over analyse while still jumping in feet first. In my heart I knew this team would work, despite never having ridden together as a team and never meeting Tiff and Jo in the flesh! The team just worked a dream. Adventure friends are THE BEST friends EVER!!!!

Sheryl says:

The best part: The whole long 456km – it was the most amazing bike adventure Ive been on. The unknown roads, the beautiful scenery, the amazing weather, the awesome 3 chicks I got to ride with that I had complete trust in, with the vast knowledge of endurance, 24 hr events, night riding I was in the best hands. My first time riding in the night with no sleep for 24 hours, and gravel riding- who would have thought we could do it on road bikes! Completely distracting me from grief!! (my sister being diagnosed with terminal stage 4 bowel cancer- and being told a few weeks ago her timeframe is 6 months to 2 years)

The worst part : Getting my period Friday night (3 days early- it’s like Victoria is in another time zone) and racing to Woolies to get supplies in the morning. Wearing Bibs and having to completely undress for a pee stop! My hands and wrists got a bit sore but I think if that was all I got I was doing well!

Thing that surprised you the most: I absolutely love riding during the night (it’s like another world).My only concern before saying yes to this ride was SAFETY! I was nervous about safety at night but I felt completely safe from traffic! We had great lights and the route was perfectly planned to avoid main roads. And riding straight for 24 hours on no sleep I was concerned as I had never done that (I never felt tired or sleepy during the 24 hours). I was on an adrenaline high the whole ride.

One thing you learned/will take away from this ride: Say YES to crazy adventures, don’t wait to be ready (fitness wise- as its more mental than physical and we can amaze ourselves with what we can do). Team Festa di bici will be back next year !!!!!

4 thoughts on “The Oppy: a 24 hour festa di bici

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  1. Bravissimi Festa di Bici. Un grande giro. Duro sulle gambe ma più duro nella mente Complimenti. 🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️🚴‍♀️


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