Last night about 50 hardy cycling enthusiasts gathered at Old Parliament House to celebrate John Howard’s birthday. This was The Inaugural John Howardâ€™s Birthday BureauCat Race.
Some people formed teams while other, less sensible indivduals, opted for solo (yes, that was me). Bikes were parked for a lazy 20 meter Le Mans style start and at 6:30 the competitors were allowed to open their manifest envelopes to begin the race. The manifest contained 15 checkpoints around the city to be visited in order, and two items to be found along the way: a plastic fork or spoon, and a street magazine.
1. The first checkpoint was to find out what the endangered insect is which inhabits the grassy reserve on National Circuit. I wasted a lot of time here, thinking the answer was ‘independant media’ as I passed the National Press Club for the second time. Damn Golden Sun Moths…
2. Next I was to deliver a signed birthday card (included in the manifest) to the Lodge. Short and sweet for me.
3. Then down to ‘Westlake’ area at the end of Empire circuit, to discover that the population of the area was 700 people in 1925. Another easy checkpoint and I had now caught up with the most of the competitors.
4. Back up the hill to Sterling reserve,in Yarralumla, where I collected a stamp for the manifest – another quick and easy one.
5. Down the other side of the hill at Sterling reserve, to locate two posts and record the numbers on the side. Local knowledge again helped get me to this one fairly quickly, but I wasted lots of time trying to find the posts in the dark. I suspect that while riding around in the trees here I rode though a large patch of thorns – which were to sour my race a little. As I rolled away from the checkpoint my front tyre was pretty flat. I stopped just to pump it up, as changing it would cost me at least 10 minutes.
6. On the way to the next checkpoint at Magna Carta place, I came very close to crashing a number of times as my front tyre slowly deflated, the tyre nearly rolling off the rim as I hammered around the edge of the lake. So I made a quick stop under the flood lights in the Yacht Club carpark to change the tube. As I jumped back on the bike I noticed that the rear tyre was feeling a bit spongy. On arrival at Magna Carta place, the checkpoint involved the infamous frottage and Edmund Barton’s face. Before I left I spent a couple of minutes pumping up the rear tyre.
7. Down to the Commonwealth Ave underpass at Albert Hall, to count the lights in the tunnel. A nice quick checkpoint after the previous long haul – but there was plenty more to come.
8. A quick spint across to Reconcilliation Place, to locate an artwork installation – followed by a quick session pumping up the rear tyre.
9. This checkpoint was the gate to the reserve at the top of Mount Pleasant adjacent to Duntroon – the highest and longest ride of the race. I took a short cut through the bush with a number of other riders. As I rode up the steep hill I thought the rear tyre was flat again as the rear of the bike shifted around. I looked down to find it was just the firetrail which was super muddy. It was a nasty little muddy climb, but I was doing much better than the guy who was on a road bike, suffering badly in the mud. I arrived at the top, my tyres doubled in size due to a thick mud coating, and collected a stamp.
10. I gunned down Mount Pleasant, mud flying from my tyres to the next checkpoint at the legacy walk in Campbell. As I cruised out of the bush and onto the road it still felt like I was riding in mud – it was just my flat rear tyre. Another session pumping the rear tyre and I was on my way to collect a sticker in Campbell.
11. Another suburban checkpoint further up the hill in Campbell, to collect a stamp in a park – followed by session number 4 pumping up the rear tyre.
12. Down the hill to the St John’s Church in Reid to find out that the gates at the front are known as the Lynch Gates.
13. A nice ride across the edge of the city to Lennox Crossing at Action, where I wasted a lot of time loooking for Old Canberra House. It was now after 9:00 and I was considering giving up, after stopping for the fifth time to pump up my rear tyre. When I found OCH I discovered that the Cypress trees out the front were planted by Earl Grey and Lady Grey (they have their own trees and their own teas).
14. A very short ride down the road to the National Film & Sound Archives to collect a stamp – where I found that the back door looks like the front door, until you see the front door.
15. The final checkpoint – up to the flagpole at Vernon Circle to collect another sticker, dodging cars and possums all the way.
The finish was at Debacle in Braddon, so I sprinted across the city, racing myself, the clock, and my deflating rear tyre. At the bar it was packed with riders having a well earned beer and some food while swapping war stories. It was about 9:30 as I handed in my manifest (over 1 hour since the first finishers arrived), but like most riders, I had forgotten to get the platic fork or spoon and the street magazine along the way – ah well there’s always next year.
[Edit – Photos taken by Che added]
The start of the race with competitors ripping into the manifest.
The completed manifest and extra items.
The winners and their prizes.