It was a night (or two) before Christmas and all along the Warby Trail there was a feeling of excitement in the air. After all, 2005 had been a rather momentous year in the short history of the Ghost Riders, and today would be the day for their final scheduled ride before Christmas. This is the opportunity to forget all those freezing winter rides, ferocious head winds, horse manure, countless punctures, crumbling derailleurs, swooping magpies, stretched lycras and the host of other problems that had plagued us all year and just celebrate the simple pleasures of good friends, shared memories and another year completed. With one notable exception, all of the Ghost Riders had made great progress over the past 12 months and 2006 is certain to be another record breaking year, so (apart from Hooters) we had much to be thankful for.
As we started gathering at Mt Evelyn I could see that a huge amount of effort had been put into the fastidious preparation of bikes and riders alike. With their brightly coloured tinsels and tassels these fine machines looked like they would be more at home in Peshawa than in Warburton. Even Crasher Lewis had applied a double layer of fake tan to his legs and had decked himself out with a pair of reindeer antlers. Especially impressive was Little John’s bike which was so highly decorated that it was posing a significant risk to motorists passing by up the road.
It was also great to be joined for this huge event by (President) Colin and “frying pan” Neil who had come all the way from the Bendigo Chapter to join us for the afternoon. Colin was superbly dressed in a full Santa suit, but Neil’s jersey was a little harder to fathom. Apparently he must have signed some sort of sponsorship deal with an underwear storage company, because his back was proudly displaying the logo “SINGLET RACK”. I scratched my head in amazement and wished them both a good ride.
For a short while it appeared that we were actually going to be joined by Hooters and the Spanner, but it once again turned out that they had only called in to tease us. After a brief chat they got back in their air conditioned car and took off in a shower of stones, saying they would join us in Warburton. I guess every cycling group must have their failures (I only wish we could trade ours with some other group).
After a final trample over the garden beds at COGS cafe it was time to hit the trail. Off we went with streamers and tinsel flying. All we needed were a few hundred fans along the trail to wave to us to make the effort worthwhile. As the first few kilometres were deserted we could only assume that all the fans must have congregated further along to see us in full flight.
Even without Peter (who had decided to spend the afternoon in his shop to prepare for the pre Christmas rush on replacement valve caps) and Gary (who was sitting at home in his fireman’s hat hoping that he would be needed to fight some conflagration) we already could see a good sized peloton in the making. This grew even further when we were joined by Ben and Cheryl at Wandin.
Ben looked a little upset and soon shared the reason for his melancholy – apparently his car had been stolen from Knox City car park the previous night. We certainly did feel for Ben, for that is a lousy thing to happen at any time, let alone two days before Christmas. Apparently he reported it to the local Police but they were too busy eating donuts to take any action.
By the time we were eventually joined by Hooters and the Spanner the peloton had swollen to 16 riders. I was also pleased to see that Mal from Emerald had joined us for his first Thursday ride. Mal had been riding with us on the past couple of Tuesday rides and had already made steady progress. He looks like he could have the making of a regular Ghost Rider.
If we only had some more of our regular riders with us we could have easily set a new record for the mid week ride. It was indeed quite a sight to see such brightly coloured bikes and riders flying along the trail. Although the crowds were a little smaller than we had anticipated it was fun to be able to give passing riders a wave and a merry “HO HO HO”. We also scored a lot of waves from passing cars so I suspect that we were able to make a few people a little happier and that’s what it was all about in the first place.
Because of the extra weight on my helmet and bike I was not able to take out the Settlement Sprint, but I was pleased to see that the Warby Riders triumphed over the Bendigo Riders once again. I suspect that the warm afternoon and the hot Santa suit was starting to make Colin wish he had opted for an alternative outfit. I wondered if Neil had been able to get any interest shown in his singlet racks. Although singlets are apparently still big in Bendigo I was not confident that they would do so well in the big city.
After a short stop to reconstitute the peloton at Milgrove we rode on up to Warburton in style. Last week I had requested that the coffee shop supply us all with free coffees for Christmas. I was confident that they would be waiting for us as a small token of their appreciation for our support over the past 12 months. After all, we calculated that we had spent somewhere between $2000 to $4000 at their establishment since last Christmas. A few cups of coffee would be a small return for such a huge investment.
I walked confidently to the counter. “We’ve come for our free coffees”, I explained with a smile. “Not a hope” was the blunt reply “but we do have three sausage rolls left over in the pie burner that we can sell for the full retail price of $4.50 each”. Of course sauce would be extra. I could not help but feel that this was a stingy way to thank us for our weekly support – I suspect that we will be investigating some other eating options next year.
The next 45 minutes or so were spent chatting about the year just past and about rides yet to come. We agreed that it would be good to get some combined rides happening between the Bendigo flatlanders and the Warby (elite) riders. This is something we will be working on in the coming months.
With the temperature slowly rising the return ride was undertaken at a somewhat leisurely pace. It was nice to be just able to roll down the track and enjoy the simple pleasure that group cycling provides. As we progressively farewelled our companions there were heaps of “Merry Christmases” and handshakes all around. Although we love to rubbish each other unmercifully the truth is that we all thoroughly enjoy being together. Although our group has a short history only dating back 3 years I am amazed at the store of fantastic shared memories that we have been able to accumulate. I believe that it is such shared experiences (both good and bad) that provides the bricks and mortar that lasting friendships are constructed from.
Thanks to you all for making 2005 such a great year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of our riders and readers. See you in 2006 !