‘Want to raise some funds for local charities?’ my mates asked.
‘Sure’ I said. ‘I’m male; I could grow a ‘mo.’
‘Yeah you could, but you are a middle aged man who could probably do with getting a little fit.’
‘Well that’s a little harsh. What have you got in mind?’
‘There’s a local charity bike ride that runs each November. The Tatura 200 – what do you reckon?’
‘200km? You’re kidding yourself. Way too far for me’
‘Well there are a number of different rides. Why don’t we have a look at them and find something that is achievable but still challenging?’
And so that is how the conversation went, and I found myself at 9am on Saturday 17 November 2018 lining up at the Tatura Italian Social Club for the 44km cross country event.
I hadn’t ridden any further than 15km in the weeks leading up to the event and the last ‘big’ ride I did was the very first Great Victorian Bike Ride way back in 1984 as part of a school camp.
After a briefing in the social club rooms which outlined the route and safety precautions, myself and the other riders gathered our bikes and assembled at the start line. The sun was shining on a beaut late spring day although the wind from the South West may prove troubling on the ride back to Tatura.
At 9am local personality Kevin ‘Gunna’ Ryan sent us on our way and we rode out through town, past the hospital, through part of Cussen Park and onto Pyke Road where we turned right and headed East towards Shepparton.
The 44km cross country event sees riders ride Tatura – Shepparton – Tatura following existing minor sealed and unsealed roads, bike paths and formed bush tracks. Locally this is known as the Jodie Ridges Bike Trail and provides a safer route for cyclists to travel between Tatura, Mooroopna and Shepparton. Jodie was a young mother of four children who lived and worked in Tatura. Unfortunately Jodie passed away in 2010 as a result of a collision with a motor vehicle while riding her bike on the Midland Highway.
Water is the life-blood of many properties in the Goulburn Valley and as we ride East on Pyke Road we wheel past a variety of different farms including dairy farms and fruit orchards which are well serviced by a network of irrigation channels and drains.
After crossing the Shepparton – Melbourne railway line we enter the River Red Gum forest that links the Eastern end of Pyke Road with the town of Mooroopna. I’m doing well at this stage, take a drink and think at least I am half-way to Shepparton and the turnaround point. The trail is rutted in places and I dismount to cross a couple of deep dry creek beds before the trail winds its way closer to the Goulburn River which I ride alongside through to Mooroopna.
Exiting the forest at Mooroopna we follow the directions of the marshals and turn right to join the shared path network linking Mooroopna with Shepparton. This section is on a sealed bike path and I pass a number of families out riding together, perhaps heading to the Kidstown Adventure Playground that is nestled in the bush halfway between Shepparton and Mooroopna. A little further on I swing to my right and head towards the suspension bridge that crosses the Goulburn River near Aquamoves in Shepparton. As I cross the bridge the welcome sight of a food and water station greets me. Dismounting from my bike I’m in pretty good shape. I’ve ridden approx. 22kms and am feeling good. Replenishing my water, and getting a couple of chocolates to get the energy levels back up, I get back on my bike feeling strong for the return leg to Tatura.
I’m sheltered from the wind riding along the shared path and through the forest, however when I exit the forest onto Pyke Rd I’m confronted by a stiff South Westerly breeze. With a little over 10kms to go, I put my head down, slip my bike into an easier gear and keep pedalling. Someone once told me that bike riding is easy: ‘when the pedal comes to the top you just push it back down’. I concentrate on doing this as I again ride past agricultural land. Soon I have crossed over the 5 road crossings along Pyke Rd and am back into Tatura. Feeling good I push out the last few kilometres through town and before I know it I am riding back through the start – finish line.
I’ve made it in good shape although I am hungry! Dismounting, I head back into the social club rooms. The organising committee have done a fine job with the catering and I help myself to a salad roll, banana, a chocolate or two and an ice cold can of coke.
This is a ride I am pleased to have done with approx. $90,000 raised for local charities and groups. I look forward to being part of it again in 2019. Below are a couple of links to the Tatura 200 website and the Jodie Ridges Bike Trail. I hope to see you at next years Tat 200.