After our triumphant ride on the Wangaratta to Bright Rail Trail last weekend I was not sure how many of our riders would have been sufficiently recovered to complete today’s ride. When Cheryl rang to say that she was (once again) “too busy” for a ride I knew that her 200km ride must have taken its toll. I was a little more surprised when Legs Warren also rang me to say that he was also “too busy” (in other words – TOO TIRED) to make the ride, I was starting to doubt the calibre of some of our group.
Even though I was also technically “too busy” to ride, I had already made the decision to ride no matter what. As I pulled into Mt Evelyn I was somewhat encouraged to see Garibaldi and Lex already waiting. On second thoughts, I realised that Gairibaldi had not ridden any of the weekend ride and Lex had only completed 120km of the total 230km distance. As I looked about for other riders I did notice an unfamilar face also unloading his bike and preparing to ride. Closer inspection revealed this to be none other than the elusive Roger (the Dodger), one of our current probationary riders.
I was soon informed that Little John would not be joining us for the ride as he was also apparently “too busy”. Obviously yet another casualty of the weekend’s efforts. Ross had intimated that he would also be joining us for the ride, but as the clock ticked closer to 1 pm there was still no sign of him. At least JLC had arrived, boosting the peloton to 5 riders. I had also been secretly hoping that Crasher Lewis might have raised himself from his sick bed to join in, but that looked as if it was not going to happen.
Just as we were about to leave I noticed an elderly Ghost Rider slowly approaching along the trail from Lilydale. Although at first sight we thought it was crasher, it turned out to be Ross. After some quick introductions it was time to put the pedal to the metal and hit the trail. Six riders headed off down the hill at a respectable pace and in high spirits.
Fifteen minutes later we were pulling into the car park at Wandin and were presented with an unfamiliar sight. It was none other than Crasher himself unloading his bike and preparing to ride. We had not seen him on the trail for some time and, although we knew his health had been failing, we were not prepared for what we saw. As Bob got ready to ride he strapped an enormous catheter to his back and carefully checked the ominous looking tubes snaking to various parts of his body. Along with his famous haemorhoids and bad back, he apparently now had a blown bladder to contend with. Personally I had not seen anyone in worse health since watching the Pope’s last Christmas message.
We tried to ignore his physical collapse and instead pretend that we were all thrilled to see him back in the saddle again. Gary and Roger had never met Bob, and later confided to me that they had never before seen anyone quite that old.
With Bob’s arrival the peloton had swollen to seven riders and we still had Hooters waiting to join us (much) closer to Warburton. Peter had also suggested to me that there was a possibility that we could be joined by another potential riding member at Woori Yallock. “If he comes along, please look after him and make sure that he is OK”, Peter asked. “No problems”, I replied.
As we approached Woori Yallock we were approached by two riders, wobbling unsteadily along the track. At first I thought that my eyes were seeing double – could it really be TWO John Seamons??? With their matching pencil moustaches and unique riding styles, they certainly did look alike. By the time we joined them we learned that John’s new acquaintance was actually our new recruit Greg. More quick introductions all around. Peloton now increased to EIGHT RIDERS and Hooters.
The next section of the ride to Launching Place was completed at a more leisurely pace in order that Hooters and Crasher could keep up with us. It was at this point that my mobile phone rang and my progress was halted by a long tech support conversation. Fifteen minutes later I pocketed my phone and looked up to see that the peloton was nowhere in sight. It was not until I reached Milgrove that I finally caught up with Hooters and his new clone Greg. The rest of the group had obviously charged ahead to Warburton.
When I finally arrived at the coffee shop I really felt like a plate of tofu and bean curds, but resisted the temptation and decided to eat healthily by ordering a pie instead. Apparently they had run out of sandwich fillings sometime last August and had been “too busy” to reorder any more.
The time spent in Warburton gave us a little more time for the peloton to become more acquainted with each other, but all too soon it was time to mount up again for the return ride. Although the weather was cooler than it had been for some months, it was never the less quite reasonable. I did notice, however, that a significant head wind had sprung up and somehow I seemed destined to be stuck at the front of the peloton for long distances.
The Settlement Rd Sprint was something of an anticlimax with only Bob, JLC and myself in contention. About 120 m from the finish I made my move before JLC was about to come over the top of us. Bob and I headed to the line side by side and I expected him to fly past. I was somewhat surprised that I managed to keep a wheel in front and cross in first place. Obviously the added weight of Bob’s catheter on his bike gave me an unexpected edge.
At Launching Place we noticed that Lex and Greg (our new rider) had disappeared. We waited for a few minutes before they appeared. Lex looked OK, but Greg was in ruins. Blood was running down his right arm and shards of skin were hanging from the remains of his right leg. He looked as if he had been trampled by a herd of elephants. “Greg has had a crash”, Lex stated the bleeding obvious. I tried to ignore the bone protuding from Greg’s leg stump and assure him (in the famous words of Monty Python) that it was nothing more than a “flesh wound”.
We somehow managed to limp Greg back to his car and lay him down in the flat rear tray of his ute. So much for my promise to Peter that we would look after his friend if he came out with us. There was not much any of us could do for him now. As I looked up I noticed the magpies (or were they vultures?) circling overhead. “See you later Greg”, I said, “the bleeding has slowed down a little I think”. I gave him a piece of inner tube to bite on to deaden his pain, before riding off into the distance.
The remainder of the ride passed without further incident and by 4.50 pm we were gathered at Mt Evelyn to discuss next Monday’s ride. Roger had surprised us all with his impressive ride up the hill and looks as if he will quickly develop into an impressive climber.