By Andrew Denyer
Our result in this year’s velogaine this year came as a surprise. Before the event, I was thinking that John and I should be able to finish in the top twenty, and if everything went really well, we might even just make it into the top ten.
Fourth overall was a very pleasing result and now as Bruce Greenhalgh (the setter) requested:- “Everything comes with a price though, and people are wanting to know how you did it.”
So here goes.
My first Velogaine experience was with Peter Wilson at the Moculta event in 2017. Fortunately Peter knew what he was doing, so as I observed, a little bit of his velogaining knowledge rubbed off on me. Not everything quite went to plan during the event when we missed a turn, found ourselves on a faint sandy track, rode over a patch of 3 corner jacks that caused multiple punctures and lost a big chunk of time, but we still had a pretty good day out.
The major lesson that I took away from my first velogaine is that holding a map and riding a bike is not compatible. If you want to keep track of where you are and where you a going a map board is needed.
My next instalment in the art of rogaining came when Doug Gillott asked if I would like to team up with him for the Bingalong Australian Championship being held in Tasmania in November 2019. I was very much the inexperienced apprentice at this event, but due to Doug’s expert tuition I started to learn the basics of route selection, map reading and navigation.
Next came Sturt Gorge 4-hour rogaine in March 2020 that taught me a little more.
For the the Mt Magnificant Velogaine in August 2020, I teamed up with a couple of our regular Sunday Poseur riding group members, John Dinneen and Charles Riemer. This was the first event where I was the experienced member of the team, so I made sure that I had a map board. (The $10 Bunnings plumbing fittings/ Officeworks clipboard map board as shown on the Rogaining SA website worked well.) We set a fairly straight forward course that allowed some flexibility to add or drop controls after the 3-hour mark depending on how we were going. There was a couple of other teams of Poseur riders entered, so with bragging rights at stake, we rode pretty well, only had a couple of minor navigational mistakes and finished 14th overall; 10 points behind our arch-rivals and fellow Poseurs Peter & Rhys Wilson.
I gained more rogaining experience Doug Gillott and Sef Van den Nieuwelaar at The Deceptive Lands 24-hour event in May 2020, and again with Doug at the Almerta 12-hour in September 2021.
At each of these events I have learnt a little more about route selection, map reading and navigation and the method that I follow for route planning, and out on course is as follows :
When you have the map,
- Get out a highlighter and mark the 80 and 90 point controls.
- Using a different colour highlighter, mark the 60 and 70 point controls.
- See if there are any nasty rough or hilly sections that should avoided if possible.
- Sit back and look at the pattern to try and figure out possible routes.
- Consider alternative routes, then select one or two to refine.
- Measure the approximate distance using a piece of string or marks along the edge of a piece of paper etc. Is the distance feasible in the time allowed ?
- Refine the proposed route, can more points be collected in a shorter distance etc.
- Know where you roughly expect to be after 1, 2 and 3 hours so you know if you are ahead or behind schedule.
- Don’t get sucked in to trying to collect all the high point controls as high points normally equals high effort to get there.
- In the last hour make sure that you are heading back towards the Hash House with sufficient route flexibility so that you can add or drop controls depending on how much time is left.
Once out on the course,
- Have the map folded on your map board so you can see where you are going
- Spin your map board so the map is orientated to the direction that you are heading
- Pay attention to the little details on the map, intersections, bends and kinks in the road, buildings, dams, contours, etc so that you can continually confirm that you are where you think you are.
- If you are not sure of where you are or which way to go, stop and check before you really get yourself lost.
- Keep track of time and progress roughly every hour so you can tell if you are on your expected schedule.
For the Tour de Mount Torrens I again teamed up with regular Poseur rider John Dineen. In 4 hours we thought that we could cover roughly 60km.
At 8:35am with registration complete and the map in hand we sat down to consider the options. The controls were arranged in a roughly triangular shape, with the higher points at each of the corners. .
After a few iterations the route we came up with headed south from the Hash House to Controls 22,41,30, then 60. We decided Control 90 was too far to go, so from 60 we went back up the centre of the maps to controls 64, 80, 70, 42, 50 then 55.
From Control 41, that we left at 10:09am, we did not see another team until we got to control 55 at 11:33am, and were wondering if everyone else had found a better strategy and route.
From Control 55, we headed towards the north-eastern corner of the map via controls 71, 52, 72, 63, 45.
When route planning, we expected to be at control 45 at roughly 1pm. We actually got to Control 45 at 12:15pm so we changed our planned route to add Controls 82 and 44, before coming back to the central area of the map to controls 74, 61, 43, 54, ,31, 62, 73, 75, and finish off with 21 and 20.
We never really considered trying to get to Control 81,92 & 53 in the north corner of the triangle – they seemed too hard to link up without a fair bit of extra distance and climbing involved. In fact we didn’t get to any of the 90 point controls.
We choose the route we did as we thought it had the right balance of points, distance and flexibility. The group of controls 54, 31, 46, 62, 73, 75 within about 5km of the hash house meant we should be able manage time well and make the most of the 4 hours. As it was, we got back 9 minutes early having ridden 65km which was just a little more than we had originally planned.
Thanks to Bruce and everyone else that made the Velogaine possible, it was great day out exploring parts of the Adelaide Hills that I previously knew little about.