As we gear up for our greatest Great Vic ever in 2019, the annual bike riding adventure directly coincides with one of Victoria’s, and indeed Australia’s greatest milestone celebrations – 100 years since construction started on the Great Ocean Road.
Construction of the Australian National Heritage listed Great Ocean Road started on September 19, 1919 and was completed in 1932. Winding its way over 243 kilometers of dramatic coastline between Torquay and Allansford, the Great Ocean Road is an iconic Victorian tourist magnet that is widely considered one of the most breathtaking stretches of road in the world.
This year’s Great Vic Bike Ride joins the Great Ocean Road at the most westerly point, following it through Peterborough and past Victoria’s most iconic coastline views such as London Bridge and the 12 Apostles.
But as 5000 riders travel this postcard-perfect stretch of road only a couple of months after the official centenary celebrations, there are things about the road that may be less well-known than the famous sights.
The story of the road
Did you know the Great Ocean Road is the world’s longest war memorial?
Proposed originally as a job creation scheme for ex-servicemen, the road was built by approximately 2300 returned soldiers from World War 1 and 700 work-for-the-dole participants.
For their efforts, they were paid 10 shillings and sixpence a day, sleeping in old army tents scattered along the rugged coastline.
But it wasn’t about money for this labour force. For many of the young men returning from the horrifically life-changing events of war, it was about settling back in to the real world and keeping their troubled-minds focused on a project that would benefit the society that war had distanced them from.
What a valuable benefit they built.
Dangling from ropes anchored to tree trunks on the cliffside above, they used picks and shovels to carve out this famous stretch of road by hand, connecting the isolated towns lining the western Victorian coastline. They created an attraction that currently draws millions of tourists and billions of dollars per year.
They did it in honour of their fallen mates.
Great Ocean Road centenary celebrations
Sadly, today only about 400 road workers are known to historians.
To celebrate 100 years since construction began, several installations and events are planned for this September – funded by the Labor Government’s $2 million Regional Event and Innovation Fund, $20 million Regional Events Fund and the Victoria Remembers Major Grant Program.
The centrepiece of the projects is a documentary titled ‘The Story of the Road’, which will show in never-before-seen detail how the road came to be. There will also be a month-long event of screenings and pop-up cinemas housed in shipping containers across the region showing short films about each location.
Liz Price, General Manager of Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism, says the centenary presents an important opportunity to acknowledge the early road workers.
“We need to be able to celebrate what is a momentous milestone and commemorate these people,” she said.
Ms Price has called on the families of road workers and engineers, long-time road residents and those with indigenous connections to come forward with their stories to help in the compilation of the centenary documentary.
100 years later
Exactly 100 years after construction started on the Great Ocean Road, 5,000 Great Vic riders will have the honour of riding along this world-famous coastline, remembering those who paved the way and enjoying their tireless handiwork.
Thanks to the efforts of these ex-servicemen, not only are we able to ride between classic coastal towns on our 10-day adventure from Robe to Torquay, but Bicycle Network are also able to offer addition coach services that can transport you, your bike and luggage between Melbourne, Adelaide and a range of regional areas in between.
Learn more about our greatest Great Vic ever
Beginning in 1984, Victoria's favourite annual regional ride is now 36 years young. It is a rite of passage for people who ride bikes and has established a proud reputation for being much more than a cycling event. The Great Vic is a rolling bike festival that pedals to a new town each day, setting up camp where riders can soak up an evening of entertainment.LEARN MORE