I have always said that the prospect of new riders joining the group is a very exciting thought, even more so when we have been told to expect more than one possible new recruit. As I unpacked the car at Mt Evelyn there were no other riders in sight, but then again I had arrived about 20 minutes early.
It was not long before I was joined by Lex and Little John and a few minutes later saw Peter’s familiar blue van pulling into the car park. Out climbed Peter and an unfamiliar new rider. The problem was that this guy did not look like an amateur at all – tall, lean and muscular, this guy had a threatening presence about him. He was even dressed like a cyclist. “This is Tom”, Peter introduced his new friend to the rest of the assembled group. “He is a sprint champion from the Blackburn Cycling Club”.
One of the attractions of having new members join the group is that for a short while I do not have to fill a place near the bottom of the peloton, but Tom looked like he had the potential to go straight to the top. I (almost) began to hope for some more weckweational widers like John, but soon common sense prevailed and I decided to give Tom a warm Warby welcome instead.
Before we could start, however, we still had another two new riders we were told to expect. Roy and Jenny are a couple of spritely septuagenarian troublemakers from Emerald who delight in writing letters to the editor of the local paper. Although this was to be their first ride with us, they had decided to ride the complete length of the trail, from Mt Evelyn to Warburton and back again.
When they arrived I asked them if they were prepared to take on the challenge of such a long ride. “If we are going to ride, we want to have a real ride”, Roy remarked. “Yes any weak pansy could ride from Wandin to Warburton”, Jenny added. I could only think that, after three years on the trail, John was still only riding from Woori Yallock. What is the matter with that guy?
Seven riders make a decent peloton and it was great to be able to head off with three new riders in our midst. Although there was no sign of Bob, everyone expected that he would come flying up on us from behind.
Soon after passing through Wandin we had yet another unexpected surprise when we met Brendan riding back along the trail towards us. Since it had been several months since we had last seen Brendan we had begun to think that he was not impressed by our brand of deodorant or something similar. Now we had no less than eight riders (an “Octoloton”) to continue on our journey together.
Somewhere near the big bridge we were met by Mal and Hooters, swelling the group to an even TEN riders. I think the collective noun for such a group is a DECOLOTON. It certainly made an impressive sight moving along the trail. Oncoming riders took one look at us and moved aside to give us free passage on our way. I suppose we could have been easily mistaken for a group from the Australian Institute of Sport out for a training ride.
At Woori Yallock we stopped for a short break to allow the group to consolidate and to make sure that introductions were made all round. Hooters introduced himself to Roy and Jenny and started to explain the secret of his riding prowess. “I have learnt that you just have to keep pushing yourself”, he seriously shared with an impressed Jenny. “Or else you won’t get any better”.
“I suppose you must know this trail pretty well by now”, Jenny said, “after having ridden it so many times”. John thought for a moment and then replied “Well, not exactly, but I know the trail from Launching Place to Warburton extremely well”. Jenny looked rather puzzled but remounted her bike and pedaled away towards the distant hills..
There was still no sign of Bob, but I was confident that he would soon catch up and make the peloton up to an amazing 11 riders. In the meantime we rode on without him. By the time we reached Launching Place I decided it was time to give him a call – after all he might be lying on the side of the trail after another of his regular crashes. After a few rings, his phone was answered by a female. I asked if Bob was already on his way. “I haven’t the faintest idea what you are talking about”, was the rather surprising response. I discovered that I had been talking to Bob’s daughter – apparently Fran had taken the phone to Sydney with her, leaving Bob home alone.
I still don’t know why Bob had chosen not to join his riding mates, maybe he was too busy chatting to his cyber friends on the Internet, or maybe his stocks had once again “gone South”. Whatever the reason, it now looked as if 10 riders would be the final size of our peloton.
As always, the outward sprint was hotly contested, but without Bob in the fray, I knew that I might actually be in there with a chance. As it turned out I just managed to edge out Mal by half a wheel on the finish line. It took me most of the remainder of the ride to Warburton to recover my composure and I was not impressed when the coffee shop had no ingedients left to make me a sandwich. “I guess I will just have to have that sad looking sausage roll”, I sulked as I pointed towards the solitary occupier of the pie warmer that appeared to have been languishing there for the best part of the day.
Sitting outside with my sausage roll I had a good opportunity to chat with the rest of our new riders. As I looked about I noticed that there was no sign of Roy and Jenny, although they did roll up a few minutes later. Apparently they had been stopped on the trail waiting for John to catch up.
On the return ride we took the opportunity to introduce our new recruits to the pleasant smooth bitumen on the far side of the river. We also took the opportunity to show them the compulsory initiation challenge of El Capitan. Although daunted by the main slope, Tom easily followed Peter to the top of the minor slope. Roy and Jenny decided to take a raincheck.
It was soon after this that Mal was overtaken with yet another dose of Doswell’s Disorder, racing several hundred metres ahead of the peloton. Although I was tempted to give chase I decided that he needed a sprint win to boost his dented morale.
At Woori Yallock we bade farewell to Brendan, John and Mal. Roy and Jenny indicated that they planned to complete the ride at a leisurely pace and encouraged us to ride on ahead. Peter, Lex and Tom set off on a rapid hill climb, leaving Little John and me to follow up the rear.
When we were all gathered back at Mt Evelyn all agreed that it had been another very successful and enjoyable ride. With the Annual Awards Night only two days away I guess all thoughts can now turn to the question of who is going to win the Warby Trophy. It was a pity that Bob had not turned up for his last ride as reigning champion, and an ongoing scandal that Hooters refuses to ride more than 15km, but in all other respects it had been great.