By Bruce Greenhalgh

I’m sure I wasn’t alone in checking out the weather forecast in the lead up to the Velogaine. A week out from the event the predictions were dire and all my checking and hoping didn’t improve things as Saturday neared. On the day, my concerns look set to be realized as the rain arrived as we prepared for the start. I had contemplated an event where I’d be cold, wet and suffering for four hours, but shortly after the start the rain stopped and it stayed fine, with the weather gods, surprisingly, delivering ideal conditions. It was to be a Velogaine remembered for what the weather didn’t do, instead of what it did do.

So, I didn’t get cold and wet, but I still suffered. My cycling form in recent times has ranged from pretty ordinary to pretty awful and as we embarked on the climb up Pennys Hill Road to the range heights it was clear to me that I was on a ‘pretty awful’ day. That might not have been such an issue if my partner, Kerstin, and I weren’t such an ‘odd couple’. Kirsten is so much faster than me (even on my good days) that it’s embarrassing. She sailed up the hill while I cursed every pedal stroke. Kerstin is, though, a novice when it comes to route planning and navigation so that’s where I could contribute. Our pairing wasn’t so much a coincidence of talents, but a combination of them, an exercise in synergy. Importantly, our event mindset remained on par throughout the Velo.

This led me to reflecting on ‘partner matching’ which is something the SARA committee has been considering of late; how to get sole rogainers into teams. It’s a tricky business matching people so that the teams end up as good partnerships. It seems to me that the critical thing is to match people with similar ideas about what they want to do at a rogaine. If somebody wants a relaxed stroll in the countryside type experience they really need to be paired with somebody of the same view. If they are teamed with somebody who is bent on being competitive it’s unlikely that things will end well. In fact, they probably won’t even start well. I’m sure you can imagine such a pairing a few minutes into the event with one team member asking to ‘slow down’ and the other urging them on to get a control first as if lives depended on that happening. Oh dear. Other considerations relating to matching are probably, as they say in legal circles, ‘obiter dicta’ (incidental).

I’d rate our Velogaine pairing as successful because we were on the same page, more-or-less, regarding what we wanted to do. As proof of this I would cite our winning a chocolate frog. A chocolate frog? Hmm. I’ve long held ambivalent feelings about the choc frog awards. I like that they have become a rogaine tradition and I’m amused by the way they subvert the dominant award paradigm of shiny trophies, money, magnums of champagne and all that sort of thing. Sometimes, though, it almost feels as if the awarding of such an insignificant trophy belittles the effort required to win one.

As luck would have it the matter was settled the evening of the Velo. I was veging in front of the tele watching ‘Great Australian Stuff’ and there was a story on the history of Freddo Frogs. It turns out that they are entirely appropriate rogaine awards, a good partner match if you like. Both rogaines and Freddos are Australian creations and both are credited to people interested in exercise. In the case of our chocolate amphibians, they result from the endeavours of MacPherson Robertson, of ‘MacRoberston Chocolates’ fame, somebody who exercised every day. Mr Mac, as he was called, was also interested in intrepid adventurers (like rogainers) which led to him sponsoring Douglas Mawson on his Antarctic explorations. Finally, Robertson was also a great philanthropist, somebody who contributed much in an unselfish manner, just like the people who made the Velo possible. Doug, Emma, Jason, Olivier, Katrina, Jenny, Jan, Trent, Stephen, Ruth, Peter, Sue and Amy are to be commended, applauded, celebrated and thanked for their efforts.

They allowed Kerstin and I to enjoy riding on a wide range of thoroughfares: dirt tracks, sandy tracks, muddy tracks, bitumen roads and bike paths. (Oh how I loved the bike paths that made our dash to the finish so much easier!) There were great views as well, as we cycled past vineyards, bush land and farms. At least that was what Kerstin told me. I was busy looking at her back wheel and trying desperately to keep it in sight. The joys of Velogaining!