One of the (many) things that makes the Ghost Riders Group so special is the large number of hallowed traditions that have become such an integral part of our cycling calendar. How could any year be complete without our traditional Donna Buang Lungbuster? Or how could we face the return of spring without our traditional Philip Island Bicycle Grand Prix ? The list goes on and on.
The Annual Christmas ride started early in our very short history and has become the traditional time to celebrate the safe ending of another cycling year by letting our hair down, donning a few Christmas sparklies and spreading some Christmas cheer along the Warby Trail. It’s also a good excuse to forget our chronological ages and act like kids again (always a good feeling).
When I pulled up at COGS I was pleased to see that we had been joined by some of our weekend riders. I was also encouraged to see the way that riders had thrown themselves into the spirit of the occasion by meticulously decorating their bikes with layers of tinsel, bells, streamers and holly. I looked back at my own half baked effort and was alarmed to see that most of my decorations had apparently parted company with the bike during the drive to Mt Evelyn. I guess that I would not be winning the prize for the best dressed bike (which is just as well since there isn’t one).
I had also been told to expect a new rider to be joining us for the first time. Natasha had sent me quite a few e-mails and seemed eager to join in the fun. In fact she is so keen, she has already booked a place in our 2008 China Ride, even before meeting us. When 1 pm arrived, Natasha still had not arrived, but since she was coming all the way from South Yarra, I delayed our start by another 5 minutes. At 1.10 pm I assumed that she was not going to show and gave the order for the Christmas ride to begin. Amid a flurry of tinkling bells and Christmas cheers we were finally underway. All we needed were lots of people of along the trail to bring a smile to.
Somewhat surprisingly the trail was quieter than usual. Although we carried a huge store of pent up “Merry Christmases”, there were precious little opportunities to share these as we rode along. In spite of the lack of spectators, we were in high spirits and everyone seemed to be having a good time. At Woori Yallock we were met by some more riders, including Cheryl and Donald. Spanner informed us that Hooters would not be riding because the extra weight of tinsel on his bike would have meant that he would not have been able to ride it. He had decided to stay at home and listen to Christmas Carols sung by a 1950’s barbershop quartet instead.
At Launching Place we met Heike wating by the side of the trail. She seemed a little dejected and I soon found out the reason for her meloncholy. Although she had prepared herself for the ride, she had only got a few km along the trail before receiving a call from her daughter requiring her services as a chauffeur. Why is it that teenagers don’t want their parents to ever have a life of their own? After saying hello to Heike, we then wished her goodbye as she returned back towards Woori Yallock. Before leaving however, she did tell me that the mysterious Natasha had actually started from Waoori Yallock and was somewhere up ahead with Bruno.
Although I was glad that Natasha had made it to the ride, I was a little concerned over what sort of first impression of the Ghost Riders she would get by riding with Bruno. By this time we had approx 16 riders in the peloton and must have looked an impressive sight for those people driving up the highway. We were soon back in the saddles and heading up the final section towards Milgrove. I kept looking up ahead to see if we could see any sign of Bruno and his new friend but did not catch a glimpse of them until we were just about to arrive at the Bakery.
A few of the riders decided to continue up to Warburton, but the majority decided to stop at Milgrove to get an early start on the coffee. It also gave me a chance to meet the newest rider. When I asked Natasha (aka “Tash”) whether she cycled much, she told me that she “rode to work every day”. That certainly sounded impressive, but when she went on to say that it was “2 km each way”, I told her that she would need to find some longer rides if she was going to be able to conquer the mighty Warby Trail. At least she seemed keen and was obviously enjoying herself.
The return ride was, unfortunately, a rather disgraceful affair. Some groups of riders decided to start early and soon we were scattered in multiple groups over a couple of km of the trail. Compared to our remarkable effort only 7 days earlier, this was not a perfect way to finish the year. Due to the ragged start we arrived at Woori Yallock in dribs and drabs. Just as I was starting to wonder if we had learnt anything in 4 years we came across another group of middle aged cyclists – apparently calling themselves “The Recyclers”. It had taken them about 2 hours to ride from Milgrove to Woori Yallock and they looked worn out. When I told them that we still had to get back to Mt Evelyn they were amazed. Apparently they had never met elite cyclists like us before. My spirits rose. Perhaps we had made some progress after all.
After a few more “Merry Christmases” we were on our way again. In some ways it was hard to believe that 2006 was so close to an end. It had been a big year for the Ghost Riders and 2007 promises to be even bigger. Once the calendar flips over it will not be long before we are packing our bags (and our yellow jerseys) for our 2nd Great China Ride.
All that remained was a short stop at the water trough to officially christen Vivienne into the Ghost Riders through the application of much water tipped over her head. Fortunately she took it in good heart and we were soon back at COGS, loading the bikes back onto the cars. A great way to finish a cycling year. (I only hope that Santa has bicycle related gifts in his big bag for all of us).