Since this was to be the first regular weekday ride for the new year I could not help but feel a little sad that my faithful “red rattler” bike was still languishing in the back room of the bicycle hospital (aka the local bike shop). I thought that it would only be fitting if I paid it a brief visit on my way to meet the other riders.
When I arrived at the shop I had to wait while the proprietor dealt with a “forty something” lady who had walked in the door just a few moments before I did. I could not help but overhear her conversation. Apparently her husband (must be a very wise and caring guy) had bought her a brand new mountain bike for Christmas. He assured her at the time that it was fitted with the biggest, most comfortable seat that was available. The only problem was that after they had gone on their first (short) ride together she had come home with a bottom that hurt more than Bob’s haemorhoids. She was desparately wanting to know if anything could be done to aleviate her discomfort.
Because I am naturally a very helpful person I could not help joining in the conversation. I tried to calm her concerns by telling her that it was only the “first 1000 km” that were the hardest. After that you don’t have much feeling left in your bum (or anywhere else for that matter) . She did not appear to be much encouraged by my words of support and just let out a mournful groan and slowly retreated out the door of the shop.
With the lady customer thus taken care of, I was able to enquire of the current state of health of the red rattler. The proprietor pointed out through the rear door to his workshop where I could see the remains of my bike strewn haphazardly from one end of the room to the other. It looked a bit like the victim of a chain saw massacre, but the mechanic went on the assure me that if he worked on it all night he might have it back together again by the weekend. I could not help mentally adding up the dollars that such a prolonged stay in the operating theatre might be costing me, but politely encouraged him to simply “do his best” and told him that I would call again the next day.
Back in the car again I tried to put the horrific images of my dismembered bike out of my mind while I drove on to Mt Evelyn to begin the ride. With the rattler out of action I had prepared the Norco (“white lightning”) for the ride. It might not be as nimble as the rattler, but at least it was going to be smoother crossing the bridges.
Bob had already phoned to say that he would be starting further down the trail so I headed off down the hill wondering if a solitary rider can constitute a peloton (or is it a monoton?). I had not gone more than a couple of minutes before I noticed a buxom woman walking up the trail towards me. She was looking at me with an earnest look on her face and as I raced past she said something that sounded like “whistle for me”.
I braked hard, stopped and turned back to ask her what she had said. She repeated her request which was to ask her husband to “whistle for her if he needed her”. I must have looked confused for she went on to say that he was a couple of minutes further down the track. Although I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about I smiled politely and pedalled on, thinking to myself that maybe she had been smoking something she should have left in the garden.
You could imagine my surprise when I rounded the next bend and found myself confronted with about 15 sheep heading towards me and taking up the entire path. Behind the sheep was a guy with a stick that seemed to be shooing them in my direction. I dismounted and waited to see what was going to happen. The guy seemed pleased at this and thanked me when the sheep started climbing the embankment and disappeared into the bushes. I assumed that this must be the “husband that should whistle for his wife”, so I passed on the message to him. I judged from his surprised expression that he was not married, at least not to anyone walking down the track. Why is life so darned complicated?
Safely past the hurdle of the sheep I proceeded on to Wandin where John was waiting. For the past several weeks John had been partaking in his secret high speed training sorties up and down the track so he had decided to try seeing how he would go on an extended route. John’s increased level of fitness soon showed itself as we proceeded to roll down the long hill without the need for his regular rest stops. The only hurdle we faced was another livestock stampede, not by sheep this time, but by a large herd of rather nasty looking cows.
After the cows we made good speed all the way to Launching Place and were met by Bob heading down the track towards us. He was still basking in the glory of his victorious trip to Sydney and spent the next 30 minutes telling us how he triumphed over riders 50 years younger (and 50 IQ points higher) than he was. We both thought that maybe he was suffering a little from the hot afternoon sun, but it was nethertheless good to have Bob back with us again. We hoped that he might even treat us to one of his notorious spectacular crashes, but that was not to be.
Although we had tried to contact Mal, he had mysteriously gone missing again and was not answering either his mobile, home or office phones. Rob Williams had told me that he was finally getting his luggage from England this afternoon so he also sent in his apology. It was obvious that the peloton would peak at three riders (a “trinitron”?)
The remainder of the ride to Warburton went without incident and we were soon enjoying our customary coffee and conversation outside the shop. As usual, the discussion ranged from solving the world’s major problems to the arrangements for our next ride. It was decided that we should try a twilight ride for a change and this will be done next Tuesday.
On the return journey we set a cracking pace (heart rate went up to over 140) and then Bob challenged me to a sprint (heart rate went over 160) for about 400 metres. I allowed Bob to win (did not want heart rate over 200 like Bob’s). Soon we were back at Launching Place and Bob headed off to his race meeting at Sandown. (I think he was racing against V8 supercars or something).
John and I headed back into the setting sun, but it was obvious the pace was starting to take its toll on John. He started insisting that we stop for a rest every 200 metres, then every 100 metres, finally every 50 metres. And we hadn’t even reached the long hill up to Wandin. I had to use clever training psychology (constant verbal abuse) to persuade him to continue on.
The last few km were a struggle but we both made it back to Wandin where John rested until his heart restarted. I left him propped against his car while I completed the ride back to Mt Evelyn. Although we sometimes tend to forget it, it was only a few months ago that it took us all our determination to ride from Woori Yallock to Warburton. At this rate of improvement we should be vying for selection for the 2040 Olympic Games.