Volunteer’s journey of a lifetime

THE wheels of the Great Victorian Bike Ride continue to turn every year thanks to another integral component of the cycling safari, the volunteers.

Julie Wilson of Traralgon is set to offer her services for a fifth GVBR next month as part of a 350-strong squadron of volunteers on the week-long cycling holiday, which begins 23 November.

Originally part of the catering crew, Julie graduated to the entertainment team after a standout stand-up comedy performance last year.

“We have a talent quest every ride and this time I was game enough to have a go. I shocked myself, I never thought I could do it,” she said.

“I’ve always wanted to do a stage thing… and I threw myself out there. That was a real big achievement for me.

“The ride had enabled me to break through barriers I had never envisaged. I’ve definitely grown as a person from my experiences as a volunteer.”

Cycling is far from Julie’s preferred mode of transport – she has only ridden a handful of times – but the tour bus is an ample substitute to explore the country.

The 60 year-old former fitness teacher has volunteered on rides in various states across the country, taking in spectacular locations without racking up debt.

“I get to see more of Australia, I meet new people and the holiday is completely free. The weather is great, everybody is fun,” she said.

“It is awesome. For some reason the cyclists treat us like royalty… they know their bike tour would cost a lot more if they didn’t have us all volunteering and cutting costs.”

Julie’s main role on the ride is communication, informing the cyclists about the areas they visit and liasing with localities to ensure the best experience for all, one of a host of positions available. The volunteers are needed for a variety of jobs from catering through to entertainment, campsite, eco and cafe.

Bicycle Network Volunteer coordinator Jarrod Amos said “volunteers make the ride happen – without them, there would be no RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride, it is that simple”.

“Volunteering on the event is an incredibly rewarding experience. We have volunteers who return year after year to create an incredible event,” Amos said.

“I appreciate the amazing satisfaction you get when giving back to the community. For others it is an opportunity to develop new skills. Some volunteers on the ride also get to share the experience with family and friends that are riding.”

In 2013, the volunteers will be looking after more than 5000 cyclists on the ride which this year features the Great Ocean Road and Otway Ranges. Volunteers get all their meals included (except rest day lunch), tent accommodation and a volunteer uniform.

Bicycle Network also provides free transport to and from the events.

“We find many volunteers treat it as a holiday, even though they must help, because it is literally ‘A week in another world’,” Amos said.

To sign up as a volunteer visit www.greatvic.com.au and follow the links to volunteers, or phone Bicycle Network on 1800 616 600.