In Which I cop a Faceful

We all know well the perils of riding the Warburton Trail. These include slippery gravel, unleashed dogs, marauding magpies, unpredictable children, not to mention the ever present likelihood of pouring rain and freezing temperatures. Last Thursday I personally experienced one of the other, not so well, documented deadly dangers of the trail.

We had been riding down the hill from Wandin in quite close pelotonic formation. We already had enough riders to make an impressive group and the weather had turned out nowhere near as bad as the original predictions. I could rightly have felt that all was well with the world as I followed close behind Roger’s wheel. Even the wind was providing a very helpful assist from the rear. It was just at that moment that something happened to immediately shatter my feeling of well being.

Obviously someone had been riding a horse along the trail earlier that day as could be clearly evidenced by the huge pile of warm fresh manure just ahead of us. Although I expected Roger to dodge around the prominent dump, for some reason he chose to go straight through the middle of it. This allowed the huge knobby projections on his tyres to collect a handful of the vile muck and throw it straight in my face. Since I had forgotten to wear my protective glasses he managed to ensure that my entire face was liberally covered with the stuff.

This normally would not have been so bad except that this was the day that we were being met by the reporter from the local newspaper. She had indicated that she would need a picture of the president and some of the rest of the group. How could I uphold the dignity of the Ghost Riders with my face plastered with horse manure. After “thanking” Roger for his consideration I rode on trying not to lick my lips.

Fortunately my mind was soon distracted by the steady addition of riders to our peloton. By the time we reached Woori Yallock we had reached 16 riders. This equalled our previous mid week record and again suggested that it would only be a matter of tme before we reached the elusive 20 ! Even Hooters had decided to ride with Big Al and Roy and started with them at Killara. As I watched Al race down the trail it was hard to believe that he had only been riding with us for a few weeks. It was obvious that my training and example had helped form him into a formidable rider.

I looked across at “Tubby” Clarke. With his diminutive 60 kg frame I could only guess how rapidly he will start climbing the hills once he gets a few more km in his legs. It was also great to see Doc Mackay back from her holidays and obviously enjoying herself in the peloton. When I asked her if she had thought any more about the China Ride she looked fearful and excited at the same time. Apparently she really wanted to go but had first to overcome her inner reservations about whether she could cope or not. I told her to look around at the rest of the participants – none of whom are actually athletes (apart from me that is), but we are all ready for an adventure. (She rang me the next day and told me to put her name down).

Heading into Settlement Rd, Johnny Magoo tried to stretch the group by cranking up the speed early. Although he quickly opened up an early lead I managed to bridge the gap and hold his wheel. The rest were some distance behind. The pace steadily increased up to the designated start to the sprint. John stood on the pedals and bolted. I followed and managed to just pass him on the finish line to win by half a wheel. Bob had left his charge too late and finished third. What a pity the reporter had not been present to witness that spectacular triumph.

When we pulled into Warburton the sandwiches were waiting for us but the reporter wasn’t. We ate the sandwiches, we drank our coffees, we waited. Time passed while we chatted in the rapidly cooling air. Still no sign of the reporter. When the time ticked by to 3 pm I decided that we could wait another 5 minutes but then we would have to leave. The time went by and we climbed on the bikes ready to go. The reporter finally arrived with her camera. I wiped my face and tried to smile for the picture.

She had really turned up to write a story about our Great China Ride and therefore did not want to take a picture of all the others who had been waiting patiently. They all decided to charge off in a huff, leaving only Cheryl, John D, Lothar and myself with the reporter. About 10 minutes later we set off in pursuit of the peloton. It did not take long to realise that we were now riding INTO the head wind.

We eventually maanged to catch the rest of the group and thereby gain some valuable protection from the atmospheric onslaught. What an impressive sight it is to see 16 riders moving along the trail in unison. (actually we never quite got to see that sight as we still had some riders trailing well behind all the way to Launching Place).

The later afternoon had finally developed into a really pleasant ride with the wind finally abating and most of the clouds disappearing. After leaving some riders at Woori Yallock the reduced group rode on in a most peaceful setting.

Next week’s ride has been cancelled to allow us to watch the SunTour Time Trial on Friday. Watch out for further information regarding this ride.