In Which we Learn an Amazing Fact about Lance Armstrong

It would be harder to remember an extended period of better riding weather. With a string of rides held under blue skies and temperatures in the low 20s, I suspect that we wish such weather could continue indefinitely. When the weather bureau promised us another of these perfect days I was confident that we would have a healthy turnout for our last ride before the Easter break.

Although I had a very busy day at work I was determined not to let business intrude on such an important part of my week. By the time I arrived at Mt Evelyn I was only about 20 minutes late and found Peter and Cheryl, waiting impatiently to start the ride. I had already heard that Bob was still having unused parts of his body surgically removed, and was not feeling well enough to join in.

As I prepared my bike in the car park we were passed by an enthusiastic group of riders from the Southern Vets. I waved as they passed, but could not help mumbling under my breath “@&$# Leg Shavers”. It was just as well Bob was not with us, or else he would have already taken off after them. he just can’t stand anyone to be in front of him on the trail.

Soon after we got started we realised that the fine weather and the school holidays had combined to deposit an unusually large number of walkers, cyclists and horse riders on the trail. I was a little fearful that this could be more like an obstacle course than our usual quiet ride to Warburton. These fears were borne out just past Woori Yallock when we came upon a huge group of elderly walkers spread out over about 200 metres. At first I thought it might have been a reunion of John’s ex-girlfriends, but as we drew closer I could see that most of them were under 70.

John helped clear a path by persistent blasts of his hooters, resulting in some of the walking geriatrics screaming in fright as we passed. Although he was wearing the same jersey as Peter and me, we tried to pretend that he belonged to some other group entirely.

It was at about this time Cheryl started encouraging John to ride a little faster. “I need to be home by 5.30 pm”, she said. “I have guests for dinner”. When she told us what she had already cooked, we asked her what time she wanted us to arrive. Her blank look apparently indicated that we weren’t the guests she was expecting.

With Warren joing us near Launching Place, my hopes for a decent peloton were dashed. After riding along for a few km, Warren turned to John and asked “Can’t we go a little faster, I need to be home before tomorrow?” John completely missed the point (as usual) and replied “Just remember that we are SOCIAL riders.”

At the Launching Place Pub somehow the peloton became split, allowing Warren and I to reach the sprint straight with the others still out of sight. I encouraged Warren to tuck in behind me while we increased speed. This is one sprint that Peter would not even get a chance in. This formation held until about 200m from the finish post. It was at this point that an inner voice warned me to turn around.

The quick glance behind revealed a shocking sight – Peter was charging up the straight at a furious rate. With his head down and his great legs pounding away he was poised to overtake us both and grab an unlikely victory. I had no alternative than to jump from the saddle and pedal like crazy. Somehow I managed to accelerate just in time and cross the line first. It had been a disconcerting experience, and I will need to learn NEVER to trust a man who owns a bike shop.

When we arrived at Warburton the Southern Vets were already enjoying their coffess in the sunshine. The truth is that the real reason we ride is that it always feels SO GOOD to stop and have a cappucino. With 9 riders gathered on such a great day, I could not imagine any better way of spending a perfect Autumn day. The conversation and silly jokes flowed freely as the calories were enthusiastically replenished.

Soon we were on our way back again and aware of the increasing chill in the late afternoon air. When we again met up with the Southern Vets on the trail I took the opportunity to ride with them as far as Woori Yallock. I then waited in the sunshine (accompanied by numerous buzzing European wasps) for the others to arrive.

The remainder of the ride was passed at a more leisurely pace enabling more stupid jokes to flow. “Did you know that Lance Armstrong has no feeling in this hand?”, I asked as I raised my right hand from the handlebars. “Why is that?” asked Peter. “Because it’s MY hand”, I replied seriously. About 30 seconds later Cheryl burst out laughing as the joke finally registered.

In spite of the somewhat late start we still managed to get back to the car park just after 5 pm. Everyone seemed to have had a very enjoyable ride (as usual).