I have often watched the Tour de France in the wee hours on the TV and noticed the motorbikes conveying officials and media and thought, “That looks very interesting, I wonder how I could get involved in doing that?”, but did nothing about it.
Then, in October 2012, I was contacted to see if Ulysses members would be interesting in assisting at the Asia Pacific Ironman event on 24 March 2013 and I responded that we would try. The reward (in addition to enjoying doing something quite different) was that the organisers would make a significant contribution to charities nominated on behalf of the Ulysses Club members who had volunteered their services to help make the event possible.
I contacted a number of branches and thanks to Ulysses members from Melbourne, Mornington Wanderers,Shearwaters, South Gippsland, Two Bays and Yarra Ranges plus members from Victorian Masonic Motorcycle Association and the Orange Knights (SES) and some unaffiliated volunteers we provided a total of 37 motorcycle volunteers.
We attended a briefing at Frankston on Saturday 23 March and then had to reassemble by 7.30am on the Sunday morning. Our tasks were to convey some 20 technical officials throughout the bike leg of the event (180 km up and down Eastlink), convey some media personnel (mainly conveying still cameramen and the like) plus mechanics and also escorts for leading participants.
The bike leg was a time trial and very technical in that cyclists were not allowed to draft each other nor block each other. As there were over 2000 entrants, this required rigorous enforcement by the technical officials we had on board as pillions. A number of time penalties were handed out and many of us were out on the course for up to 5 hours with minimal breaks before the bike leg ended and many finished their duties for the day. Some volunteers conveying media plus some technical officials then had to continue throughout the “run” leg which was a full marathon from Frankston to St Kilda and provided more challenges as it required extremely slow riding to keep “pacers” away from leading contenders whilst negotiating traffic along Nepean Highway and Beach Road.
After that it was a return trip to Frankston and then a final fuel up (provided by the organisers) before heading home for a much needed rest.
Once the event started, we really saw very little of each as we spread over the course. I found it very interesting, challenging and enjoyable and have received feedback that many other volunteers also did.
Although fatiguing, I thoroughly enjoyed the event and I would like to thank all the people who volunteered and made the event possible. Many have indicated that they would do it again.
I would also like to thank USM (the event organisers) for the donations they have made to UCARF ($2400) and Very Special Kids ($2400) in recognition of the services provided by the volunteers.