Once upon a time, when the calendar moved into late Autumn, the skies would open and the rain would pour down unabated for about the next 5 months. For anyone born in the last decade, of course, such times can only be heard about in the ramblings of senile old bike riders over 50 years old. While the drying up of the rain clouds is bad news for the water catchments it does extend the cycling season enormously.
Pulling up at the COGS carpark I could hardly believe my eyes – the warm sunny afternoon had brought out a huge bunch of yellow jerseyed riders. Not only were all the tables occupied but the flood of Ghostriders had expanded onto the trail and out into the carpark. Some of these riders I had not seen for some time and had to search long dormant neurons in order to recall their names.
We tried a head count and found that we had well over twenty riders for the start of the ride. Since I could never recall this many riders starting the ride at Mt Evelyn I immediately declared it a “record peloton” and a “red letter day for the Ghostriders”. It would have been an impressive sight if we could have maintained some cohesion in the large peloton but Mal (true to form) bolted off the front as soon as we had started and initiated a small group of rockets who soon disappeared out of sight. Within a few minutes we were stretched out over a couple of kilometres.
This premature acceleration meant that the peloton did not reform until we stopped at Woori Yallock station. By that time several other riders had joined the group, swelling the final head count to about 26. As we waited for the slower riders to arrive it became obvious that something had gone wrong with the tail end group. We waited and waited. Mal Doswell jumped about like a little boy needing to go wee wees. It was obvious that he didn’t like standing still, but I reminded everyone that it was our duty to wait for those in trouble. At that point about half a dozen riders could wait no longer and jumped on their bikes and rode into the distance.
Fortunately most of the riders did stay and, after about 10 minutes, we discovered the problem. Little John Dawson had suffered a flat tyre but the problem was now fixed and the rest of the group continued to Milgrove. Since we were now running a little late I decided to miss the final climb to Warburton and get in some eating instead.
When everybody had finally arrived at Milgrove it was truly an amazing spectacle to see so many riders gathered happily in the warm afternoon sunshine. This time of simple fellowship is surely one of the highlights of our Thursday rides.
The return ride was accomplished at a slower pace as we enjoyed the incredible peace and beauty of the Yarra Valley in autumn. Surely this trail is one of the best in the country. With the shadows lengthening we rode into the setting sun. The only trouble with this time of the day is that the glare makes it difficult to see where you are going. There is always the ever present danger of riding headlong into an oncoming rider.
Fortunately we all finished the ride without mishaps or punctures, completing a very memorable day.