Bruce Greenhalgh, winner (with Steve Sullivan) of the 2010 SARA 4 hour cyclogaine, indulges us in some gonzo reportage of their experience.

(Editor’s note: for those not sure of what gonzo journalism is:

Bruce was encouraged and inspired by my quest to find material outside of the linear ‘we did 53, then 48, before moving on to control 71’. The rogaining experience is vastly richer than what can be represented by a linear number progression. Thanks Bruce for the stylistic effort.)

Readers of the esteemed publication (the SARA newsletter) may have noticed changes in its style and content subsequent to a change of editor. Farley Wright, the new editor and sometime partner of mine in rogaining crime, had earlier explained to me his editorial intentions. I responded by saying, “Gonzo journalism meets rogaining. I can’t wait!” That amused Farley and left me thinking that perhaps the newsletter could benefit from a bit of gonzo. So, in the spirit of drug fuelled, convention corrupting, seat of the pants, stream of consciousness reporting allow me to present:

Fear and Loathing and Cycling in Bundaleer Forest

At the start, the usual suspects, nervous banter, Andrew “Extreme” Slattery trying to stir me (again) about my Rohloff hub. Into the countdown: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and we all leave the split second before “Go” as if the time pinched will make any difference. Good to be underway, though, after the planning and hanging around and worrying about my brakes (Avid Juicy 7s – don’t bother).

Almost straight away a fence to climb over. If I ever try convincing anybody that rogaining is a good thing I leave out any mention of fences. Our navigation to the first control is a bit naff but we find it and settle a few nerves. Clue for our second control is “A cactus garden”. A cactus garden in a pine forest? Far out! I wonder what other crops are growing hidden in the pines? Up and down hills, over fences and we are working out that going off tracks is not only a viable option but probably necessary if we are going to do any good.

Control 47 is “A shallow gully”. The shallow gully gives me a mild depression. Where’s the control? Don’t you just love control features that don’t feature when you get to the locale? If the control clue has terms like “shallow”, slight”, “broad” or similar you know you are going to be up against it. My favourite is, “Alleged gully in an undulating but essentially featureless area with highly questionable landmarks and dodgy vegetation mapping”. That should have been the clue for the 80 pointer in the north that we spent too much time finding, including a brief debate about whether we should keep looking, but we persevere because it’s 80 points.

Control 52 is an easier find and then it’s over a fence to a fast ride along the dirt road. Next we grind up to an open hill area which has attracted a lot of teams, both on foot and on bike. It must look strange to somebody who doesn’t know what is going on. Actually, it looks strange to me and I know what’s going on.

Heading south now, zig zagging between controls. More cross country and some quite fast going which is a buzz and, it occurs to me, quite unusual for a cross country mountain bike event as you’re almost always on tracks for supposed “cross country” riding. Mind you most mountain bike events don’t have you climbing over fences every five minutes.

In the original “Fear and Loathing…” for their trip to Vegas Raoul Duke and his attorney pack into the trunk of their hired Chevy convertible “…two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole gallery of multi-coloured uppers, downers, screamers, laughers … and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls”. My own supplies are rather less excessive and in squirting down a gel I pretty much halve my stock. But I have been guilty of excess in the past, finishing a rogaine with the equivalent of a small buffet in my pack. I must be learning.

I digress; back to the track and the track heads south to the Georgetown road. We’re behind time and most of our well laid plans are rapidly being altered. The plan to attack control 48 from the bottom of the hill should have been altered as it proves a poor choice but what the heck, we get lucky with the next 90 pointer.

Is it me or are there more fences in the southern part of the course? They’re definitely getting higher anyway. Into the denouement and the “hour of power” so lots of calculating on what controls remain viable targets. I’m getting tired and every control now seems to involve climbing over a fence and climbing up a hill. Aren’t there any controls at the bottom of unfenced hills? For the walking bits my cycling shoes with their stiff soles started out being merely less than ideal; now they are starting to feel like a real handicap.

The final minutes and we bag control 61 and figure we’ve got enough time for control 56 before heading home. Did I mention the fences? We struggle over a few more and Steve cramps and makes an involuntary donation to the Bundaleer Barbed Wire Blood Bank. Just a few minutes left but we’ll get back in time. Good. Satisfaction as we charge back knowing we have used the time well.

And then it’s all over red rover, finished, the end. Why doesn’t 4 hours at work go as quick?

Non–gonzo version:

Steve and I started at the start then went to controls 70, 45, 32, 40, 63, 51, 91, 47, 80, 52, 30, 44, 82, 64, 71, 58, 83, 34, 41, 74, 67, 66, 48, 90, 72, 53, 84, 76, 62, 36, 81, 35, 61, 56 and then we finished. There were a lot of fences to cross.

Bruce Greenhalgh