Medical experts warn that by the time someone reaches Bob’s age almost 72% of their brain is no longer functioning. This alarming fact was demonstrated again in our most recent ride. As I waited with with Peter and our two new John’s at Mt Evelyn, all impatient to start our ride, there was no sign of Bob. Although I had hoped that he would be joining us, I was accutely aware of his rapidly deteriorating mental state, and was secretly wondering if he was still at home watching the Jerry Springer Show.
I nevertheless tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and announced that we should head off and let Bob have a moving peloton to chase. After all, it was a dry afternoon, and although cloudy, conditions were looking pretty good for riding.
As soon as we got started, Quasimodo took flight. With his unique straightbacked riding style, he disappeared off into the distance. So much for pelotonal disclipline. How am I ever going to mould these guys into a formidable riding team ? I had no alternative but to cast aside all discretion and give pursuit. As I bounced over the rough rocks and sticks I was expecting that any moment I would suffer another dreaded “pinch flat”.
Somehow the tyres managed to hold out and by the time we reached Killara the peloton had some semblance of formation (although not much). It was at about this time I had a call from Spanner Billson. Apparently he was now returned from the Land of the Long Rice Banquet and was ready to ride off some the weight he had gained. He also tried to tell me more, but the poor quality of the mobile connection meant that all I could make out was the sound of waves crashing on rocks.
We managed to reach Settlement Road for the outward sprint and Crasher Lewis was still nowhere to be seen. Surely Jerry Springer must be over by now, I thought. With my mind otherwise occupied I had not noticed that Quasimodo had charged off on an early start to the sprint. This was dirty tactics if I had ever seen them. In fact, just the type of low strategy that Legs Warren tries to employ. And all this from a guy who is still on probotion with this club!!!
By the time I realised what he was up to, he had opened up a lead of about 100m. I was very tempted to just let him have the sprint and then pretend that I did not really care about the outcome. After I entertained such thoughts for a few seconds I thought again about the splendid traditions of the Ghost Riders. How would it look if some Johnny Come Lately (incidentally called John), won the sprint on only his third ride with the club?
I had no choice but to give chase. Standing up in the pedals I took off as fast as I could. By this time my foe was doing about 36 kph . Would I have any chance of catching him? Fortunately as I started to gain I noticed that his speed was starting to drop. Perhaps he was learning the folly of breaking so early. With lungs puffing and heart a thumping I managed to reach his rear wheel about 500 m short of the finish line. This gave me about 300m to “rest” before the final sprint. At the same time I became conscious that I had another challenger rapidly approaching from the rear.
With Legs Warren about to overtake us both this was developing into a three way contest. Seizing the only opportunity I would have I launched off and managed to cross just ahead of Legs, with Quasimodo in third place. It had been a lot of fun – and all this with no sign of Crasher in sight.
Since by this time I had used all my energy I was quite content to cover the rest of the distance at a sedate pace. Near Millgrove we finally met up with Spanner Billson. In fact he had brought out another female rider with him. Apparently he was determined to show his daughter Emily a group of elderly men behaving very badly.
As we completed the final section to Warburton we tried to practise team riding in tight formation. Unfortunately I think I could have had more success teaching 6 emus to dance the Can Can, than to teach the Ghost Riders the finer points of team riding. When we finally arrived at Warburton we were able to settle down and catch up with Warren’s adventures in China.
It was while we were enjoying our cappucinos that we noticed another familiar face come cruising in on her bike. Apparently Cheryl had just missed us at Mt Evelyn and had been chasing us all the way to Warburton. We told her that it could not have happened to a nicer person, although if she had rung to let us know she was coming me might have waited for her.
With seven riders now gathered it was developing into something of a celebration. If we keep growing at this rate, by the end of the year our rides will be bigger than Ben Hur. As we were catching up with Cheryl, our conversation was interrupted by a loud rasping wheeze coming from somewhere nearby. We looked up to see that Old Crasher Lewis had also finally caught up with us. He had apparently been chasing Cheryl all the way from Mt Evelyn, but hadn’t been able to gain any ground on her.
As he stood there, shaking, puffing, wracked with pain and old age, we did what all true friends would do. We laughed at him. When he went on to tell us some story about “his screws coming loose”, we were able to assure him that we already knew he had many screws loose, but we love him anyway.
Eight riders might have even been a new record for a weekday ride. Unfortunately with so much of my brain no longer functioning, I honestly couldn’t remember what the record was. I think we all had to agree that it was a good turnout. With John still resting at the Club Med in Port Morsby, he will obviously notice quite a difference when he returns next week. I suppose he will have to further reduce his riding distances due to his exposure to malaria.
I am pleased to say the the return ride was completed without punctures, crashes or lycra splits. We are all impressed with the continued improvement of Little John, who finished only a couple of minutes behind the leaders. For a guy on only his third ride, this was a great achievement. He even seems to be enjoying the pain.
It was also another milestone for Cheryl, who has now completed the required quota of rides to be accepted into membership of the Ghost Riders. She can now wear the coveted yellow jersey and become our 11th member. Well done.