The next morning dawned clearish and a bit windy. I lolled in my bunk while other, perhaps more sensible or experienced randonneurs rose and got on their way. Starting at 7.30am just well, indulgent.
I got up and headed to the cook house and had a couple of coffees, munched a couple bananas, yacked with Peter and Les while other riders kept coming up and departing. By 7.20am Mark arrived and after making a few adjustments we hit the road at about 7.45, not quite the lanterne rouge but close enough! We did however have heaps of time up our sleeve as the final cutoff for the ride was 10pm.
Leaving town with the wind we made good time and settled into a rhythm as we headed west then south on the long 100km stage to Jeparit. The first 60 or so kilometers sped by but we soon found ourselves riding into the wind and the last 25kms were testing. I was quite happy to arrive at the Controle and had a delicious egg and bacon roll from the cafe.
The next controle was only 50km away at Rainbow, but that section was right into the teeth of the wind which while not really strong was still challenging. Mark and I were making fairly good time however and we caught and passed a number of other riders as the sun emerged and gave us a beautiful afternoon for riding through the Mallee.
The Rainbow controle was set in a beautiful garden avenue in the main street and after a quick break we again set off, first into the wind before turning away from it and fairly racing away for a good run to the final stop of the ride. As happens the last kilometres can drag by, however the late afternoon light was really lovely drawing vivd colours from the fields as we rode past. Eventually we saw Hopetoun on the horizon and before too long we were entering the town and arriving at the controle at about 5.50pm, still light. Handshakes all round after what was quite a brisk 200k ride.
Later that evening we enjoyed a home cooked roast dinner at the Bon Bon cafe before I took to bed well aware that I had yet to drive 12 hours back home the next day.
While the Mallee routes is a relatively flat ride, I was really happy to finish and was quite pleased with my riding over the weekend, finishing with an average of 24.8kph on the bike and about 35 hours for the total ride. I'm a bit stiff today but there's no lasting damage and I am now feeling very ready for Perth- Albany-Perth next month.
Big ups to Peter for organizing the event, Les and Gordon for running the controles and the other riders for their particpation and conversation along the way. It was a great ride.