“Feeders & Speeders over thousands of metres…” By Dan Wilkins×

“So mate, do you want to be one of the feeders for us in the Melbourne to Warrnambool this year?”

The answer seemed easy. The job seemed easy; after all, I’d watched the feeders hand musettes with relative ease to riders on TV over the years. No problems.

It was only on the Thursday before the race I realised how much went into those bags, how quickly the riders grabbed those bags and then on the day; the general carnage, swerving, desperation to get fed. 

Making our way to the delightful and scenic Werribee Racecourse for race start, it was fantastic to see the nervousness on the faces of BG riders Cam and Dan whilst Dean and I were trying to be supportive (and also trying to pick which playlist would take us through the 7 hour drive to Warrnambool). If any of you had the ‘pleasure’ of riding with either of these lads over the past 6 weeks, you would have realised they were taking this seriously... And it wasn’t long before they realised it was lucky they did.

Meanwhile in the BG ‘Family Car’ Deans first job was directing us to the first feed zone. In true Queenslander style, he directed us straight into a dead end on the first turn. Not to despair, he kindly covered his tracks but suggesting we get out first sugar fix from the petrol station at 7.30am.

Inverleigh was the location of the first feed zone. A was to be the standard of the day, Team BG dominated the drive there and was the first to #OccupyInverleigh. If you want some lovely croissants, a couple of houses, some nice trees and not too much else this place is tops. And so we waited.... Whilst sharing some gags and music with the Total Rush crew we saw the first of the riders make their way through the feed zone. Then, like a rampaging stampede the main field came though. The mixture of different coloured kits, bikes and helmets made its way through the narrow first feed zone. Cam, Strauss and Tall Man Tim all managed to get through safely, but not all with their feed bags. Glen was close behind after the peloton put the hammer down early. Carbon wasn’t spared as there were a few crashes and dropouts during feed zone one.

With first feed out of the way it was time to #OccupyLismore.  Team BG got a great location towards the end of Feedzone Two, ready for the onslaught for a second time. It was during this ‘rest’ that we got to see what a few other riders had decided to ingest throughout the day. All Dean and I can say is; “whatever works for you...” We saw some concoctions that would rival my mother’s brussel sprout mix, and believe me, when I was a kid I was NOT asking for that!  As the small breakaway came through, Dean became acquainted with a nice gentleman who was giving all his friends’ race updates from his phone. We also saw him at Feedzones Three, Four and at the finish!  If you would like the story, speak to Dean, he sure loves telling it...

After a cracking 150km the BG boys were again looking tops coming through the feed zone. In the frantic onslaught that followed Cam missed his feedback despite frantic attempts to get it to him. But never fail! The comradery in the bunch allowed Cam to refuel and stick with the pace. Again, there were more dropouts after crashes, mechanicals and those who just weren’t having a good day.

Feedzone Three was the hardest to get to.  Big detours and the ever increasing pace of the race made the BG Family car fly like...... well its heavy so it cruised well to #OccupyTerang.  Terang was where the 2011 Melbourne to Warrnambool lived up to its name. The driving headwinds and rain really started to come down. So much so that Dean and I spared thoughts for the riders, whilst we had the heating on in the car, pumping some mad tunes.... We decided that this was going to be the most important feed zone and every rider had to get their feed bags. We had heard that Genesys had decided laughing time was over and put the hammer down. They split the main pack of 130 or so riders into 6 smaller packs.  The big hitters of Haas, Pearson, Von Hoff and Fetch had skipped away.  This feed zone, 216km into the race, gave the riders the last bit of energy which they required to battle the conditions and get to that glowing finish line. Dan Strauss had made a small but powerful group and was first to get to the feed zone, with Cam McDonald only a few minutes behind. Tall Man Tim was a few minutes behind again, with all riders looking cold, wet and right in their element.

Although the general consensus at the start of play was there was no need to get to Feedzone Four (#OccupyPanmure), the trusty BG Entourage decided to speed... um... drive at 99km/h, to Feedzone Four just in case. And it was lucky we did.... because no-one wanted a thing. But we cheered them on with only 25km to go. But after the conditions of the day and the race itself, those faces were showing signs of fatigue, pain and utter joy all at once.

Despite Deans lack of faith in the BG Family wagon and its “Stig” like driver, we managed to get to the finish line just after the first group crossed. We waited for the boys to come rolling through and rolling through they did. Dan Strauss was first to finish from BG, and 2nd overall in his Grade. And did he cross with jubilation! The adrenalin was pumping (rumour has it he ate one millions gels) throughout the legs.  Straussy celebrating with numerous bunny hops and screams of fulfilment. Next to cross was Cam under half an hour behind the winner Joel Pearson.

Cam took a couple of minutes to realise what he had accomplished, and although he looked like he could curl up and die as he got off his bike, some warm clothes and some hair gel helped him realise he had endured one of the toughest races of them all.

Big Man Tim was next to cross. He was the easiest to feed throughout the day, as I just looked for George Hincapie, Bernie Eisels and Shaquille O’Neills love child. The big man powered his way home and looked fresh as a daisy when he got off... whether he felt that way is another story.

Finally, congratulations to Glen Bowen. He popped off early when the hammer went down, however Glen refused to pack it up and go home and made it to the finish in Warrnambool in 139th place.  With 62 people abandoning, Glen obviously had bidons filled with concrete to get him to the finish and get that converted medal around his neck!

Well done to all who raced. Every rider was, in the words of Lincoln Brown “UNBELLLLLIEVABLE”.

Thanks to the BG Crew, especially Dean for being my cohort on the drive, and providing copious amounts of jocularity and Natural Lollies. Thanks to Luke “Skinny” McKenzie and the Total Rush guys for their comedic value, but most of all thanks to the BG guys who raced.  You all did an awesome job and in such trying conditions over such a long journey.  Just to have attempted it is something else!

Photos courtesy of www.kathrynfeldmaier.com