Although I have been back from the latest China Ride for over a month I have only been able to complete two rides since getting back to Australia. How sad it is that all the bike fitness that I had gained from cycling over those huge mountain ranges in the Himalaya has now all gone down the proverbial gurgler. As it was I only just managed to complete a couple of computer installations and get back home in time to load the treadly and rush off to Mt Evelyn to meet the peloton. At least it looked like the weather was going to be in favour, there was plenty of blue sky and the temperature was a balmy 17C – not bad for the Yarra Ranges.
It was only when I stepped out of the car at the COGS carpark that I realised that the ride would not all be plain sailing (or easy pedaling). In fact the wind was whistling overhead like a jumbo jet taxiing for takeoff. I unpacked the bike and joined the throng of yellow shirted riders that were already waiting for a start. Some of them had started their rides further back along the trail and ridden back to Mt Evelyn and brough with them dire warnings of the Force Ten Gale that had buffeted them all the way. That did not auger well for the return leg of the ride.
By the time the clock wound round to 1 pm we had about a dozen riders ready to start, with Peter Warren and Mega Mike just arriving as we were leaving. At least we had the assistance of both wind and gravity as we charged down the hill towards Wandin. We had not travelled far before it became obvious that the mild weather had also brought numerous other riders out onto the trail. Unfortunately many of them were meandering all over the place, wandering wildly from side to side without a care in the world for anyone else wanting to share the path with them. On more than one occasion I had to yell out “Keep to the LEFT” as I approached cyclists who seemed intent on changing direction every couple of seconds.
Once we emerged from the relative protection of the trees we felt the full force of the wind. Blowing from the side it was almost enough to pick you up and toss you off the trail and into the nearby ditch. It took all my concentration to keep moving in a straight line, but I eventually managed to organise the peloton enough so that I was able to gain some shelter behind 2 Bob and Big Kev. I discovered that the secret of riding in the wind is to let someone else do all the work for you.
On the downhill section towards the big Woori Yallock Bridge I noticed a couple of riders struggling their way up the hill towards our peloton. The woman was about 50 feet ahead of her male partner. As they drew closer I could see that the male cyclist looked like he was about to expire at any moment. With his lungs heaving, his face red and his pedals hardly turning he wobbled his way past me and into the face of our following peloton.
A couple of moments later I heard a lot of shouting and someone tooting their bike horn. I stopped to look back but could see no one behind me. Thinking that someone must have suffered a flat tyre I turned around and started to head back up the hill I had just come down. I had not gone far when I saw some of our riders heading towards me. I assumed that all must be OK and, once again, turned around and rode towards Woori Yallock.
It was only when our group was all assembled at Woori Yallock Station that I noticed that Garry was vainly trying to wipe a steady stream of blood from his forearm. Apparently the inept cyclist that I had seen had wobbled his way directly into Garry’s path, causing him to crash heavily onto the gravel. When the culprit stopped to enquire after the carnage he had caused, Garry somehow showed remarkable restraint by not ripping the guy’s arms off. With his arm and leg in tatters apparently all he said was “I’m OK mate”.
It was obvious that Garry’s ride would be ending prematurely as he rode off to get some medical attention. The rest of us wished him well and continued on our way to Warburton. Again we encountered a succession of riders on the trail, most of them scoring between 1 and 2 points on the 10 point rider intelligence scale. It became a tricky exercise trying to anticipate which way some of these riders were going to move next.
When riding on any sort of shared trail it is essential that everyone behaves in a predictable way. Most accidents are caused when a rider does something that is unexpected, making it impossible for other cyclists to take evasive action or when riders are not paying due attention to what is happening in front of them. After a couple of near misses I decided to ride as close as possible to the left side of the trial and to shout loudly to any slower rider in front to warn them when I was passing.
After passing Milgrove quite a few got involved in a brisk sprint up to Warburton. With the wind still blowing strongly from the rear, the climb was completed at a faster pace than usual and fortunately we all managed to survive without further incidents.
With the new tables at Milgrove it really is a highlight of our Thursday rides to see so many riders sitting down to lunch and a laugh together. It seems that every week brings new riders and I was pleased to see that we had several new faces that had joined since I left for China.
I had hoped that the wind might have abated by the time we had to start the return leg of the ride, but this was not to be. It would have been even harder if I had not been able to quietly tuck myself in behind a group of riders who protected me from the worst of the maelstrom. I managed to retain this sheltered position all the way back to Wandin.
Our thoughts were with Garry who we knew would be home trying to clean out his new cuts and abrasions with the wire brush and Detol. Glad it wasn’t me!