Friday, 01 December 2017 09:05

Bairnsdale welcomes cycling’s tent city

Bairnsdale turned on its charm this week, welcoming 4000 cyclists and support crew from the Great Victorian Bike Ride for two nights in an economic boon for the town. And what a sight it was at Howitt Park and surrounds, as a tent city, complete with shower and toilet blocks, huge food tent, and live entertainment space, housed Bairnsdale’s guests, ranging in age from school children to the active elderly, as they rested their weary legs midway through the 539-kilometre journey which started in Wilsons Promontory last Saturday and finishes in Trafalgar on Sunday. The riders leave Bairnsdale this morning. Bairnsdale, as the only two-night stop and only rest day, was treated to cyclists in great spirits, clearly enjoying themselves and of high praise for the town (the largest visited on the ride), despite the smell emanating from Jones Bay (see page 3). Tours to experience the best of Bairnsdale and the surrounding district were booked out yesterday, the Mitchell River was the perfect spot to cool off, the walking track was like Bourke Street, and the cafés and laundromats, and many other businesses, were kept very busy. For Canberra’s Paul Kay, the Great Vic Bike Ride is an opportunity to see Victoria’s breathtaking countryside.

“I have done the Great Vic Bike Ride five times and I really enjoy it. I love seeing the different spots of Victoria,” he said. “Bairnsdale looks great, even though I have only just got here,” he said on rolling into Bairnsdale on Wednesday. Paul had planned his rest day. “I am planning to have an expensive lunch tomorrow and then get all the washing done,” he said. “The drivers have also been very polite and the towns have been very welcoming.” This sentiment was shared by Sandy Haig, participating in the ride with her family. “I am enjoying it, it is always really great. Last year’s ride along the Great Ocean Road was amazing as well,” she said. Sandy was keen to enjoy a day off before hitting the road again. “We are really looking forward to experiencing Bairnsdale. The hospitality where we’ve gone has been amazing,” she said. “When we finish the ride we will come back and visit all the towns we have ridden through, but in the car this time.” The rest day attention quickly turned to great food and coffee yesterday, with riders inundating local cafés and hotels. Charlie Dickinson, of Mr D’s café, said they had been “super busy, right from opening”. “We’ve been flat out since about 7.30am, inside and out,” Paper Chase’s Elaine Loader said. “We were fairly prepared but we’ve had plenty of cyclists coming in for big breakfasts and by 9.30am we needed to run out for more supplies like mushies and ice.” Anna Willaton, at The Wooden Squirrel, said the customers had been great. ”Everyone’s pretty relaxed. It’s quite a festive feel, really uplifted,” she said. Those spirits may be dampened somewhat from today onwards. “We are a little worried about what’s ahead. There’s some pretty wild stuff forecasted,” Don Cook, of Kyabram, said yesterday morning. Gavin Napier, of Numurkah, said everyone was a little apprehensive about the predicted weather.