Queen Elizabeth may have thought that 1992 was a real Annus Horribilis for her but with the combined effects of global financial meltdowns and the worst bushfires we have ever experienced many would think that the past twelve months will go down as the year we don’t ever want repeated. With the Yarra Valley still under serious threat from the surounding fires we once again ventured down to the flatlands to pit our skills against the demands of the Dandenong Creek Trail. I was pleased to see that, in spite of the longer drive for most people, we still had a muster of about 15 riders at the start.
At about 1.15 pm we finally got underway and formed a long line of riders stretched out along the path. For the first km or so we followed a sealed concrete path which probably lulled me into a false sense of security. Just as I thought we were in for a doddle of a ride I found the lead rider turning off the main trail onto a gravel path. Since I was involved in a animated chat with Smokin Joe I continued on assuming that the trail would be of a uniformly smooth and safe consistency. I had not ridden far, however, before I found my whole life flashing before my eyes.
Much to everyone’s surprise we turned a tight bend and found ourselves wallowing in a deep pile of loose gravel – probably at least 10 to 15 cm deep in places. My bike immediately ground to a halt as the front wheel sunk deep into the mire, sending we sideways into the sharp stones. Joe had no choice other than to ride over the top of me to avoid being injured himself. As I lay bleeding and stunned I called a frantic warning to those following to stop. I felt a little like the hapless lookout on the Titanic warning of an impending iceberg, but somehow the rest of the peloton avoided catastrophe and were soon gathered around examining my skinned leg (ie laughing their heads off)..
As I fought back the tears I tried to convince everyone that it was “only a flesh wound” and I would be fine to continue the ride to Carrum. I picked up the remains of my Avanti and tried not to see the fresh new scratches and bent rear derailleur, at least a couple of gears still seemed to be working. Struggling back on the bike and with a fixed grimace on my face I tried to pedal on as if nothing had happened. Fortunately, once we were back on the concrete, the rest of the trail is not demanding and I managed to stay upright all the way down to Patterson Lakes.
The Bakery was a pleasant surprise and provided lots of outdoor tables where we were able to spread out and have a nice chat. By this time the afternoon was heating up and most people sought cold drinks to replenish their hydration for the return ride. The break also gave me an opportunity to briefly examine my wounds before getting back on the bike again. My main concern was that I had done something serious to my knee just before our departure for Nepal.
On the return ride we followed a different route by staying on the Dandeng Creek Trail all the way back to Jells Park. This avoids some of the numerous road crossings and rewards the rider with some more pleasant scenery than the concrete dominated Eastlink Trail offers. Even with the aid of the strong tail wind it was obvious that some of the riders were starting to feel the effects of the rising temperature causing the group to split into two sections. Since I was now keen to get home and apply some first aid I tried to keep moving at a good speed. This also helped to stop the leg from stiffening up too much. It was only when I got back to the car and realised that I had great difficulty walking that I started to worry.
Fotunately after a few days of agony I could say that the worst was over and the wound had started to heal well. I must admit that this event did give me a renewed appreciation of those Tour de France riders that suffer terrible falls and then get straight back on the bikes. I sincerely hope that I have well and truly used up my crash quota for the next year.