Once the word got out that we were again going to joined by our sole female Ghost Rider for today’s ride I was confident that we could expect a good turnout. The fact that the weather was also as close to perfect as it is ever likely to get also augered well for a respectable peloton.
As Peter and I met at Mt Evelyn the major topic of conversation was the forthcoming epic ride from Wangaratta to somewhere else. Peter asked me if he should shave his legs for the occasion, but after taking a look and the scant hairs remaining, I told him that a pair of tweezers would be a more appropriate tool to remove the three hairs in question.
After a few minutes we were joined by Bob, looking even more toothless than usual. Aparently he is planning to have to have his support crew chew his steak for him while we are away at the weekend. The usual rituals of tyre pumping were carried out while we were waiting for Cheryl to arrive. “If I inflate to 180 psi, I should be able to knock 2 minutes off my best time” announced Bob. Peter and I looked at him, and his overstressed tyres, but decided not to say anything.
Once Cheryl had found the correct meeting place, she unloaded her bike and looked as us guys with a helpless look. “My bike is all in pieces and I can’t figure out how to put it back together again”, she said, looking at noone in particular. This was Peter’s cue to step forward with his handy selection of giant spanners, screwdrivers and assorted shiny bicycle widgets. When, after 10 minutes of huffing and puffing, Peter still did not seem able to determine which way the handlebars should be facing, I stepped in to lend him an, obviously needed, hand.
We were finally on our way, only 15 minutes later than usual. Bob threw his chest out and started pumping on the pedals while Peter regailed Cheryl with the virtues of Avanti bikes. As Bob increased speed the previously peaceful hills were soon reverberating with a stupendous explosion. Although Bob initially thought he must have exceeded the speed of sound, the real truth of the cosmic caucophony soon became evident.
Bob’s folly in challenging the immutable Laws of Rubber Extension by setting a new world record for inflation pressure had brought him undone. As he sat by the trail studying the shredded remains of his rear tyre, it appeared as though this ride might be over before it had really even begun. In his delerium he started ranting about filling his tyres with folded gum leaves. (I suspect this may have dated back to his days in the Penny Farthing Brigade in the Crimean War, but had little relevance in the 21st century on the Warby Trail.)
Fortunately the Ghost Riders are masters of improvisation, and soon we had jerry-rigged a temporary makeshift tyre, cut out of one of the legs of Bob’s lycras, held together with gaffer tape. “I don’t know if it will hold”, Bob whined as we headed off, trying to make up for lost time. As it turned out, the repair was perfectly adequate, and held for the entire remaining 62 km or so of rough riding.
Further along the trail we met up with John, who couldn’t wait to tell Cheryl all about his fantastic battle with the “giant snake” he had met last week. This ever changing tale kept him occupied for the next 10 km, until we met up with Warren at Launching Place. With five riders in fine form (and also John), the peloton made an impressive sight as it made its way steadily to Warburton.
As usual, the outward sprint was hotly contested. Peter decided that attack was the best method defense and so decided on a long lead out about 3 km from the finish. I knew I could not afford to let him get a break and held his wheel at 35 kph. Although I could not see Bob, I knew that he would not be far away, and feared that this approach would play right into his hands. About 100 metres from the finish I made my move, and, about 40 metres further on, Bob made his. As I watched him disappearing into the distance ahead of me, I knew the sprint was lost.
I cannot remember much of what happened during the remainder of the ride because my heart was beating too fast to concentrate on anything at all. Another crazy sprint into Warburton sent it rocketing up to 180 beats per minute, but it was a welcome relief to relax at the coffee shop and wait for the others to arrive. With the warm sun, it would have been so easy to stretch out for an afternoon siesta.
When the group was together again, Cheryl brought out her amazing pictures of the New Zealand ride she had just completed. “Over 950 km of rugged riding” she bragged.
“But we’ve climbed Donna Buang” I replied.
“I’ve run over a snake”, John added quickly.
“I put up with John each week”, Warren explained.
Bob thought for a moment and shared “And I’ve got haemorhoids”.
After 30 minutes of eating and assorted tomfoolery we saddled up again for the return ride. The bikes were covered with liberal layers of white dust from the dry trail (and so were we) as we rode into the setting sun. This is always the best part of the day, and I can NEVER get tired of this amazing part of Melbourne.
Needless to say, Bob again won the return sprint, but I didn’t really mind. It really helps to cheer the old fellow up if I let him win occasionally. We slowed down to a leisurely pace in order to savour the perfect conditions. It was such a treat to be able to talk and ride at the same time.
Back at the cars, the main topic of conversation was again the imminent ride from Somewhere to Wherever. It was clear we were all looking forward to it with much anticipation. All we need are two or three days just like today.