In my opinion there is nothing like a perfect Autumn day to experience the absolute best that cycling has to offer, and it is certainly true to say that March 2nd was nothing like a perfect Autumn’s day. With the temperature hovering in the mid 30s and a strong wind blowing it felt more like mid January than the start of March.
As I arrived at COGS I was pleased to see that the hot conditions had not deterred our riders for there was already a sizeable group gathered together on the remains of the garden bed. Mal Bowmaker, proudly sporting his new yellow jersey, had even decided to raise his performance bar to a new high by riding the full length of the trail for the first time. He was obviously full of enthusiasm at this early stage of the afternoon, but I could have reminded him that in a few hours he would be battling up the same hill, after a long, hot ride.
With Warby Phil on extended leave of absence due to his trip to China and Tubby Clark off at the Police Academy learning how to correctly pronounce “Hello, Hello Hello” and eat iced donuts, it would be important to have as many active members on the trail as possible. Although Crasher was nowhere in sight, we well knew of his propensity to enjoy a chase, so we headed off without him.
In hot weather it is actually much more pleasant while you are riding, than when you are stopped, especially when you’re riding downhill. For this reason we were able to keep a respectable pace, the early peloton consisting of Lothar, Andrew, Mal, Little John, 2 Bob and myself. As we progressed we were soon joined by a succession of other riders, including Crasher, Young Ben and Doc Mackay. By Woori Yallock we were pleased (and somewhat surprised) to see that Robyn had been released from hospital and had come back for another battle with the Warburton Trail. Cheryl was also back from, yet another, trip to Sydney. In addition we also had Willem and Roy swelling our numbers even further. Lastly (and very leastly) Hooters was there also to carry the red flag at the end of the large peloton.
It is always good to be able to make our way along the trail, while catching up on the past week’s news and sharing a few jokes. Not so welcome was Hooters’ first “Why do we do this?” exclamation of the afternoon. The wind was moving around, sometimes hindering our progress and at other times providing a welcome boost from the rear.
With such a sizeable peloton moving onto Settlement Rd, things started to get a little out of control. I had already decided that, in the hot conditions, I was not going to spend all my pennies so early in the afternoon and just contented myself to cruise along at about 25 kph. Up ahead I could see that not all of our riders were acting as wisely – in fact I could see a sea of yellow jerseys spread all the way across both lanes of the road! As a car came towards them from the opposite direction, for a brief moment I feared the worst. Fortunately the driver was able to swerve right off the road and into large culvert hidden by the long grass and thus avoid a catastrophe. Although our riders had escaped unharmed, the message was clear – we do need to exercise some more common sense on this section, or else we might get into trouble with the local constables.
At Milgrove we huddled around the Trail Blazer Coffee Shop to have lunch. The food here is great, but it really is a pity that there isn’t a better spot to sit down and enjoy the coffee and chat. At least the proprietor is always friendly and welcoming, now all he needs is a few more chairs and tables.
On the return ride, we had not gone very far when one of Hooters’ mobile phones started to ring in his ear. After he had composed himself to answer the call in his “business voice’, it turned out to none other than Warren Billson ringing in from the USA via the Internet. Isn’t technology wonderful? He was just missing his ride and wanted to know what the weather was like. When we told him it was about 32 degrees, he said that it was also 30 degrees where he was, except it was Fahrenheit not Celsius.
I was pleased to see that the pace was much more sedate than on the outward ride and that Robyn was coping very much better than she had the previous week. In fact the peloton managed to stay largely intact all the way back to Woori Yallock. The biggest problem was that the afternoon sun was burning down with a vengeance and as soon as we stopped to farewell some of our riders, we were reminded afresh just how hot the day had become.
Looking across at Mal Bowmaker, he looked like he might have been having second thoughts about his decision tro ride from Mt Evelyn. At this time of the afternoon, Mt Evelyn still seemed a long way off. After a drink it was time to bite the bullet and head off again into the sun. With global warming can we now look forward to our Autumns all being this hot, or was it just because we were only 2 days into March?
The Seville water trough once again provided a welcome diversion as we gleefully drenched ourselves with cold water and behaved like a group of kids at summer camp. On the final climb up to Mt Evelyn the group did spread out a little, but all eventually made it safely back to their waiting cars. It will be interesting to see where Mal starts his ride next week – but I suspect that this guy is a fighter.