What did the recent ‘Woodside Wheelers’ Velogaine have to do with an imminent zombie apocalypse? Rogaine tragic Bruce Greenhalgh explains…

Strange Day, Indeed

I’ve watched enough horror films to know that the setting for the end of civilization as we know it, the zombie apocalypse, the invasion from outer space – that sort of thing – is usually a dark and foreboding night with, perhaps, mysterious clouds racing past an angry moon, or thunder, lightning, driving rain and howling winds. It almost always involves hints that something is terribly amiss: birds stop singing, dogs cower in corners and strange, unexplained things happen. And all this is accompanied by an ominous soundtrack that portends dire and cataclysmic events.

The ’Woodside Wheelers’ Velogaine provided a setting seemingly the antithesis of this. The event occurred on a fine, sunny day in the bucolic Adelaide Hills. There was but a breath of wind. The soundtrack, pre-event, was of excited chatter as great plans were made, the calling of greetings to friends and the happy sound of cycling shoes clicking into pedals. All was right with the world, or so it seemed, but as we velogained our way through four hours disturbing auguries and unnatural occurrences spoke of looming disaster.

Firstly, there was the totally inexplicable fact that even though we started and finished at the same point, we climbed more kilometres than we descended. I’m sure of it. A landscape gone mad! The south-east corner of the map was particularly warped in this respect. Were there any descents? Thinking hard I do recall a few brief, blissful moments when gravity was my friend, but the salient memory is of how interminable the climbs were. Riding from control 70 to 61 and then 50 each fresh turn in the road revealed yet another span of ascent and I began to doubt we would ever reach a summit. Would we end up in the climbers’ ‘death zone’? I certainly felt near to expiring.

It was also weird how we kept seeing a couple of the faster teams. They would overtake us going significantly quicker and ride away leaving me thinking ‘That’s the last we’ll see of them’, only to be overtaken later on, again quickly, in circumstances that made me wonder what the hell they were doing. Rogaining is different from the majority of sports in that you rarely know what’s happening with other competitors, how well they’re faring, what’s happening with their score and all that. Even allowing for this though, our experience at the Velo was a little unsettling.

Then there was the map; surely some diabolical influence was at play in its creation? It was a puzzle without a solution, conducive to setting labyrinthian routes worthy of those required by a descent into the underworld. Even now, post event and with the leisure to explore all options, I can’t come up with a route that I believe would truly work.

On the day we took a basically anti-clockwise approach ignoring the controls around Woodside. Some of the roads and tracks were as we anticipated, but there were surprises going to control 81 – almost ‘technical’ MTB terrain – and to control 90 with its ever-shrinking track. The emphasis on carrying compression bandages in case of snake bite became clear in the long grass around this control. Mind you, given that my ‘progress’ at this point was nothing short of torturous, a lethal snake bite had some appeal. At least I could have stopped pedalling.

Worrying though all these threats and preternatural phenomenon were, I was dissuaded from dashing off to some underground bunker with a year’s supply of canned food by a couple of things. Steve and I both expected that our team-mate, Kerstin, would make us look, well, slow. And she did. Exhausting though this proved, its predictability was existentially reassuring. If further proof was needed that the world was still right and good, there was the superb organisation of the event. I can’t fault it. Doug and crew are to be commended for their fine work and, most importantly, allaying my fears that the apocalypse was just around the corner (after, probably, yet another climb).