In Which The Prodigal Sun Returns

For all those legion, lonely, late night scholars who spend the wee small hours of the mornings poring over the official annals of the Ghostriders – I have news for you. Did you all realise that we recently celebrated our SIXTH Birthday ? That’s right, it was just on six years ago that four disparate riders made their rather unsteady way along the Warby Trail. It was also at that time that John (aka Hooters) unveiled his secret horn system that gave rise to our name. With the highly amplified, synthetically synthesized sounds of an ancient steam train echoing along the trail, we christened ourselves the “Ghostriders” for the very first time.

Since that humble beginning we have now ridden the trail approximately 300 times, had well over 100 riders ride with us on the trail (some of whom actually stayed around long enough to become officially qualified as genuine Ghostriders) and extended our cycling adventures to as far away as China. From humble beginnings we have done our best to retain some of the distinct characteristics that have been a part of our heritage from the very first ride. It is true that we love to ride, but we also like to laugh at ourselves (and at each other), we enjoy a challenge, we certainly enjoy coffee and cakes after each ride, we are a little bit competitive at times, we all hate head winds and punctures. Above all we enjoy each others’ company. Indeed I think it is safe to say that for many of us the Thursday ride is the highlight of the week.

When my diary indicated that the pages had once again turned over to “Thursday” my first thought was to look out the window and check out the winter weather. To my great excitement I could see blue sky and sunshine. I quickly forsook the work piled high on my desk, turned out the light and went to don the lycra for another ride. Starting at Woori Yallock at 12 noon I started off in bright sunshine but soon found myself struggling into a fresh head wind. Any thoughts of setting a good time for the ride to COGS were quickly set aside as I dropped down a couple of gears and settled down to an upwind spin.

Along the way I met Glenda and Gael somewhere near Seville and arrived at COGS at 12.45 pm. By this time there was already a sizeable peloton assembled. It is amazing how the size of the peloton is directly proportional to the amount of blue sky visible overhead. On a somewhat darker note Paul was already busily engaged in repairing the first puncture for the day. Over the next few minutes additional riders joined the throng. I was pleased to see that one of our newest recruits had returned for another ride. Jo had turned up for her first ride last week and was determined to up the ante on each ride. It was also great to see Jon Bate back for his first Thursday ride for some months. Problems with his arm had kept him from the trail but it was good to see him back in action again. Also joining us for the afternoon was Geoff Vigar’s son.

At the appointed hour of 1.00 pm we were underway, with about 20 riders making up an impressive group. Since I had battled the headwind all the way from Woori Yallock to Mt Evelyn I had been eagerly looking forward to the tailwind which would turbo assist us all the way to Warburton. Wrong assumption ! I should have realised that it never works that way in cycling. No sooner were we underway than we were assaulted by a freshening headwind that actually blew in our faces for almost all of the ride. Although this is strange it was certainly true. (Editor’s note – in the strange Twilight Zone of cycling it is actually possible for two cyclists travelling in opposite directions to pass each other and each complain about the same headwind).

After a few minutes at Woori Yallock allowing for the group to reform we set off on the next section to Launching Place. It was in this section that a most remarkable (and hitherto unknown) spectacle took place. For about 10 km or so we managed to ride in perfect pelotonic unity! This is something we have often aspired to, but very seldom managed to achieve for anything longer than fleeting milliseconds. What an amazing sight it was to see two long columns of yellow clad riders, riding along with absolute precision, with Tom Partel doing the hard work at the front, about 2 km ahead of the rest of us. It was enough to bring a tear to an old president’s eye (or maybe it was just the little flying insect that managed to get past my sunglasses and imbed itself in my iris).

A couple of kilometres before reaching Milgrove my mobile phone rang and the peloton left me in its wake. This was not entirely a bad thing as it gave me the perfect excuse for not riding the final section of the trail to Warburton. Along the way I was pleased to be met by about 30 or so teenage girls who waved anb shouted happily as I passed by. I could only assume that they had read about the famous Ghostriders and had come out on the trail especially to see us pass by. Like Cadel Evans I guess that is the price of fame.

When I arrived at the Milgrove Bakery it was far too inviting and the thought of a hot pie and coffee sent me scuttling for the car park. Soon I was happily munching away, trying not to think of those still toiling hard on the final climb. The weather had remained kind to us and, for the second week in a row, we were treated to some weak, warm, winter sunshine.

All too soon the clock indicated that it was time to leave and we were clamoring back aboard our iron horses for the return ride. Finally I felt the unfamiliar sensation of a tailwind helping us back along the trail. Oh what cycling bliss ! With the wind behind it was possible to cruise along with almost no effort and I arrived back at Woori Yallock almost sorry that I didn’t have to ride all the way back to Mt Evelyn.

Next Thursday it will be August and the end of winter will be in sight. The very thought of those lengthening, glorious days of springtime (and non-running noses) is enough to carry us through the last throes of winter.