“They’ve closed the Warby Trail, They’ve closed the Warby Trail”, was the frantic message I received from Gary on Tuesday afternoon. “What are we going to do?”. I guess it’s in moments like this that true leaders have to stand up and make tough decisions”. “We’ll just have to bring our road bikes and do a road ride instead”, was my quick response.
While the carpenters went to work on the burnt remains of the Woori Yallock bridge I could only hope that the repaired version would be smoother than the original. I suspect that the unknown arsonist was actually a trail rider who had grown tired of having to have their fillings replaced after each crossing of the bridge. Although Hooters and the Spanner were both away overseas I was confident that the rest of the Ghost Riders would make sure that we could form an impressive peloton as we cruised up the Warburton Highway.
It was only when Thursday actaully arrived that I could see that my hopes of a good turnout were looking a little grim. Instead of yet another dry and sunny day, we had been presented by the unfamiliar spectacle of an overcast sky and —- RAIN. We all knew that Crasher Lewis would not turn up if there was any chance of getting wet. After all, he has enough trouble staying upright in the dry, once the road gets a few drops of water on it, you would think he was a competitor in the Alice Springs Rodeo.
At the appointed hour of 1 pm we had only Lex, Gary and myself ready to ride. A few minutes later we were joined by Milhouse (aka Ben) and we headed off towards Warburton. The plan was to ride from Launching Place Pub, up through Warburton towards Reefton before turning back for afternoon tea. Although the peloton was small, I guess it proved once and for all just who the strongest riders really are.
Lex took up a position at the front of the group and I soon found out why. It is only when you are at the front that you do not get covered in the muddy spray being thrown from the wheel of the rider you are following. I looked down with dismay at the liberal collection of muddy spots already adorning my jersey and tried to ignore the gritty taste in my mouth. Was it my imagination, or was Lex deliberately riding through every puddle on the road?
Once through Warburton we turned off to complete the section on the far side of the Yarra. The sky darkened a little and the temperature dropped a couple of degrees. We pushed on, turning right and heading up through Warburton East. The children at the local primray school waved and shouted encouragement as we passed. At least that’s what I think they were doing. It’s funny how the locals up here have a quaint way of waving with one finger stretched upwards.
We hit the first hills and the group started to stretch out. The rain started. We pushed on upwards with the water running down our faces. By the time we reached the letterbox at the crest of the first hill the clouds had dropped to treetop level and the rain was stinging our faces like sharp needles. We made the only decision possible under the circumstances.
“Let’s head back to Warburton for coffee”, I suggested. Since there were no objecting voices, we turned our bikes back and made a high speed bolt down the hill. With the speedo hovering around 40 kph I tried to imagine the pleasure we would soon be experiencing as the hot caffeine slid down our throats. With about 2 km to go, the rain stopped and gave us a couple of minutes to begin to dry out.
As we entered the outskirts of Warburton we were met by JCL pedalling towards us. “We have just been all the way to McMahons Creek”, I lied as he passed by. He turned around and followed us back to the coffee shop. It was there that John explained that he overslept and therefore been about 45 minutes late for the start.
After we had enjoyed a break it was decided that we would all have time for another quick circuit up to Warburton East before heading back to our cars again. Although it was still cool, the afternoon was not really all that bad for riding. Another quick downhill section again saw our speeds head up over the 40 kph mark. Road bikes really can be great fun.
We even managed to stay in formation on Settlement Road, ready for a proper sprint. As we crossed the white marker we stood up in the pedals ready for the final onslaught. To my horror my left foot pulled from the cleat leaving JCL and Lex to battle to the finish. My best chance in weeks had been squandered.
All too soon we were back at the car park. All the riders were glad they had made the effort to turn out. It had also been good to see Gary back in the peloton and his news about the improvement in Lynn’s health was a great encouragement to us all.