Too often we avoid a challenge because it is too difficult. In a busy world I often hear people saying, ‘I don’t have the time’.
So, take inspiration from Team Brevet. Five ‘ordinary’ people, busy with family and jobs, who together achieved something truly extraordinary; a new Audax Fleche Opperman 24 Hour team time trial record of 800km.
Words - Mike Boudrie Images - Andrew Clifforth
It’s difficult to conceptualise riding 800km in 24 hours. It works out at over 33km/h. Add nutrition stops and the pace required increases to levels that many of us would struggle to maintain on shorter rides.
At the start point in Warrnambool, on the south coast of Victoria, Team Brevet take shelter from appalling weather conditions just 12 hours out from the start.
Despite the heavy wind and rain the mood is electric, with high, positive energy levels flowing, creating an inspiring environment. There are the ritual last minute checks to bikes, the checking of supplies and kit. Volumes of food are consumed, enough lasagne and apple pie to feed an army.
At 9am Team Brevet start rolling north. They strike a contrast between the dull landscape and grey sky in their bright pink jerseys. You can feel the adrenaline in the air, just being close to Team Brevet makes my heart rate lift.
With dry roads and the wind in their backs, Team Brevet meet their target of 37kmph for the first 235km. Learning from last year, they constantly monitor heart rate and conditions and vary the pace accordingly.
We pass through the towns of Mortlake, Lake Bolac, Maroona and Ararat. The lush costal country gives way to vast dry vistas and the Grampians pass slowly to our west.
Stops are planned but brief, each one just five minutes, another lesson learned from last year. The breaks are about food and the customary signing of brevet cards. This is a lasting tradition for Audax events, a tip of the hat to the heritage of the sport alongside the use of electronic tracking. Long may it continue.
Team Brevet track towards the town of Kerang for their next checkpoint. At ten hours in, this where the questions start. I hear, ‘why am I doing this?’. Riders start showing the look of suffering. Drawn, faces and salt encrusted kit. They are feeling the pinch. At these moments some humour goes a long way. Drew Ginn is asked what the strategy is… he breaks into a hilarious tirade full of colourful language about going hard and getting as far down the road as possible. In that instant everyone feels better.
At the next stop the support team work their magic. Hot food is waiting - potato cakes, sausage rolls and chips. Team Brevet are back on their bikes looking and feeling better.
As shadows lengthen and the night rolls in, things get serious. The first 12 hours are just the prelude. Glen tells me ‘riding fast at night is scary as hell’. This year the guys went for top end lighting, helping them spot the stream of endless kangaroos jumping across the road.
Things almost came undone late into the night. At the darkest moment a huge hare stood in Team Brevet’s path staring directly at them. A swerve, an almost touch of wheels and the train was millimetres from a nasty collision.
The night was long. The fatigue and sleep deprivation tough. The riders pass through ups and downs in morale. At this stage Glen O’Rourke has to step off his bike. Unable to focus on the bike in front of him and he is struggling to hold his line, at one point almost ending up in the dirt on the side of the road. Safety was a priority and Glen made the call himself. The disappointment on his face said it all. He’d given it his all, but fatigue had gotten to him.
As we approach the last hours of darkness, the four remaining riders are working hard. Good smooth cadence, but all are shifting constantly in their saddles trying to find some kind of comfort without success. At the final stop in the early light, faces look grey with dead eyes. They have given it everything.
A beautiful sunrise lifts spirits and acknowledges that the worst has passed. Calculations show at least half an hour to spare, Team Brevet is beginning to believe they can break the record.
As Team Brevet roll into Wagga Wagga they make the decision to push past the finish line and complete an extra 23km. This seals the record with a massive 800km in 23 hours and 49 minutes. Incredible.
THE SUPPORT FACTOR
This year, the level of teamwork was upped, not just by the five riders, but also by the support crew, family and friends.
The support crew are as inspirational as the riders. Selfless in giving their time and as passionate about getting to the finish line with the record as any of the riders.
With meticulous planning, every stop saw Team Brevet’s nutrition selection and kit selection were laid out and ready. The most important job of being generous with words of encouragement was completed every time.
Training has been heavier. Glen O’Rouke tells me that ‘we inspire our kids to work hard and achieve their goals’. The families are as much a part of the team as anyone. Their endless support and incredible understanding is a big factor in success.
Riders – Glen O’Rourke (Captain), Glenn Landers, Drew Ginn, Scott Thomas and Dylan Newall.
Support Crew – Simon Spence, Troy O’Callaghan and Mathew Belford
Rapha Australia – Andrew Pike and Jesse Carlsson - Clothing and Support
La Velocita – Mike Boudrie and Andrew Clifforth – Media and Support
Full Beam Australia - Lighting
And Team Brevet’s Families.