When I found myself in Richmond at 1.30 pm on the afternoon of our scheduled weekly ride, it was looking like my chances of making the start on time were looking pretty slim. As I dodged and weaved through the stagnant traffic in Bridge Rd I could not help but wish I was already enjoying the open space and freedom of the Warby Trail. The dashboard clock relentlessly ticked off the passing minutes.
Finally out onto the freeway and heading towards the hills I began to plan the remaining afternoon. It was just was well I had planned this afternoon to be a “Twilight Ride” – at least that gave me an extra two hours to my working day. Turning onto Wellington Rd at Mulgrave with the time at 2.05 pm, I could only hope that I would not be caught behind any slow moving trucks.
Fortunately I enjoyed a good run and pulled into my drive at 2.25 pm, frantically loaded the bike and quickly donned the lycra. Ten minutes later back on the road again, this time heading for our meeting place at Mt Evelyn. Dashboard clock racing. Please, please don’t let me encounter anyone wearing a hat.
With split second timing I turned into the car park at (almost) precisely 3 pm, just enough time to catch my breath and join Little John who was already unloading his bike. But where were all the others who had promised to join us ? No sign of them. After a couple of minutes Mal turned up for his first weekday ride of the year. I rang Bob’s mobile to see if he was coming. (He is very forgetful). Fran answered. “I was just wondering if Bob was riding with us this afternoon”, I asked. “I have no idea”, was Fran’s reply.
At about that time Bob pedalled up the hill and joined us. I am always impressed by couples who can communicate so clearly with each other. With four riders gathered I decided it was time to leave. The weather was cool but fine and it looked as if it was going to get better as the afternoon progressed.
After all the hassles it was great to be finally riding along the trail with my mates. But what was that awful noise? Oh no, it was my mobile phone. I stopped to take the call while my riding “mates” disappeared into the distance. Ten minutes later I resumed what had now become a solitary ride down the trail. (I started to feel like Peter).
By the time we reached Woori Yallock station I finally caught up with the others and soon met John Seamons, JCL and Peter. JCL said hello and then announced that he had finished his ride and was heading back to his car. The peloton was back to six, but at least we managed to ride with a semblance of restraint as far as Launching Place.
Bob had borrowed the “free” bike from Bicycle Victoria, and appeared to be having trouble with the gear changes. “This bike keeps changing gears by itself”, he complained. “It must have an automatic transmission”.
The outbound sprint was hotly contested with a number of riders fighting out the finish. A local dim witted car driver also decided to join in the fun by following us all the way up the road with his hand stuck on his horn. It was a pity that he did not stop at the end to introduce himself so we could get to know him better.
I again finished second to Bob, but well ahead of Peter and Mal. The next 10 minutes were a bit of a blur as my heart rate settled back down to normal and the peloton reformed for the remainder of the ride to Warburton. Since we had a little time up our sleeves we rode the full length of the trail and then back along the Main St back to the “Three Sugers” Cafe. Time of arrival: 4.45 pm.
Although Hooters had to leave before dinner, the remainder of us stayed on and were joined by Maggie, Fran and Kerry. It is always fun to share a meal together and the quality of the food was excellent. My only concern was if we would be able to restart our legs after the long break.
After dinner I exited the cafe and noticed that Little John had left his bike leaning up the side wall and out of sight – not wise for a town like Warburton I thought. Being a thoughtful leader I decided to teach him a valuable lesson by moving his bike right out of sight and into the middle of a dense bush. I then returned back to the footpath to watch his reaction.
I was not disappointed. He came out of the cafe, turned the corner and then let out a soul wrenching wail “My bike’s been stolen”. His face was ashen. My lesson was working very well. I tried to look concerned, but in the end I could not let the big guy suffer for long. After all, losing your bike is (to a true cyclist) worse than losing your wife. For some strange reason he did not seem impressed with my teaching methods.
We bade farwell to the ladies and headed back up the road. When I reached the top of the short hill, I heard a shout that someone had crashed. Sure enough old crasher Lewis had come a cropper – right in the middle of the main street. When we finally stopped laughing, we rode back down to see if he was all right. He immediately started blaming his bike. “The derailleur threw me off”. Could a once great rider really have come to this?
Once Bob had regained his shattered composure we were back on the move again. The late afternoon sky was now clear and the riding conditions were absolutely perfect. It was interesting to see that that a number of extra riders had obviously come out on the trail after finishing work.
On the return sprint Peter reverted to unfair tactics of having a excessively long lead out (just to tire me out). I held to his wheel and moved to the lead as the pace increased. Peter again burst from nowhere and passed us all on the outside. With only 200m to go until the end Bob and I counter attacked, passing him with about 100m to go. I knew I could not catch Bob, but I thought that Peter was a spent force. I did not expect yet another counterattack, almost on the line. The three of us flew across the finish line separated only by a couple of feet. Final order: Bob, Dennis and Peter. (I later discovered that Peter had cheated further by illegally fitting slick and narrow road tyres to his bike – this guy is desparate for a sprint win).
The remainder of the ride was passed in high spirits and at a pretty good pace. At one stage we were joined by a “warby wannabe” but we managed to shake him off on the Wandin climb.
Back at Mt Evelyn, we knew we had worked hard and had thoroughly enjoyed every second of it.
Dinner at Warburton – $20, Peter’s slick tyres – $70, Bob’s crash – PRICELESS!