With John resting somewhere on the beaches of Cairns and Bob off on his Leyland Brothers Australian tour I was really wondering who would be turning up to hit the trail on a fine Thursday afternoon in July. I suppose there was always a (slim) chance that Mal would appear but lately it had been more likely to expect a visit from Sadam Hussein than to share a ride with the elusive Mal.
At 1.20 pm at Wandin it seemed evident that this was to be a long solitary ride so I guessed that I would just have to dig into my own inner resources to make the ride interesting. I could identify with all those philosophers who had wasted lifetimes postulating over the problem of the hypothetical “tree falling in the forest with no-one around to hear it fall”. Suppose I should stage a spectacular crash on the trail all by myself – would it really count as a crash at all ?
With such thoughts rushing around in my head I charged off down the hill. At least the day was fine and the track was dry. Even though it was school holiday time there weren’t very many riders around. Maybe I could set some sort of a personal challenge for myself. After all, I did not have to slow down to wait for Bob or John to catch up – I could just let fly for once and ride at my own lightning pace.
Soon my legs were gyrating rapidly and the scenery began to blur as I cranked up the pace. We usually take the downhill section at around 28 kph, but I decided to see just what the old red rattler could do. The computer was soon over 40 kph and registering up to 50 kph in the straighter sections. The adrenaline rush was overwhelming as the kilometres started to fly by. My biggest worry was that I could be struck down with a puncture and my flight into the record books would be thwarted.
When I approached Woori Yallock station I noticed a few elderly riders on the trail ahead, selfishly retarding my progress. I had no choice but to shout curteously at the top of my voice “Get off the trail if you can’t pedal”. They looked somewhat startled but acceeded to my demands and parted to let me fly by. I needed to reinforce in their minds that they had just been passed by the King of the Trail, so lifted my bottom from the seat and pummelled the pedals as hard as I could. I guess they had not seen anyone doing 48 kph on the trail before!
It seemed that the Launching Place Pub appeared before me like an apparition but the computer assured me that I had managed tocome this far at an AVERAGE speed of just over 32 kph. At this rate I really should be in the Tour de France. After all I could certainly beat a skinny guy like Lance Armstrong – he doesn’t know the first thing about true trail riding.
At Launching Place Pub I decided to make up extra time by riding along the highway to Yarra Junction. After all, I was now a man on a mission. I was going to write my name into the record books or die trying. After taking a big gulp of air I hurtled down the hill from the traffic lights and scorched past the pub at 45 kph. With the blood flowing freely through my limbs my legs pumped like well oiled pistons. I could almost hear the cheers of the crowds lining the highway as they urged me onwards.
The hum of the tyres on the smooth bitumen was so intoxicating that I thought I had entered cycling heaven and the computer was now registering 52 kph. Startled motorists tooted as they passed me. I guess they were saluting a new champion of the road, but I had no time to acknowledge their adulation as I was now a man on a mission. My only worry was whether my stamina (impressive though it undoubtedly was) would carry me through to Warburton.
I tried to remember what the Bicycling Australia magazine said about self hypnosis and how to switch off personal pain when you are cycling towards history. As I swept through Yarra Junction at 56 kph I really felt that I was truly invincible – but where were the crowd of witnesses I would need to verify my achievement ? Lying in the sun at Cairns sipping an iced coffee!
With less than 10 km to ride I could afford to slacken the pace slightly. There was no way those elderly citizen riders could catch me now. As I drew near to Milgrove my average speed had dropped down to 37 kph and my legs were finally starting to tire. Surely my quest could not falter at this point with the end almost without sight.
I stopped at the side of the highway for a few seconds and gasped a few lungfulls of fresh air as I tried to envisage the glory that was now so near. Resuming my place in the saddle I dug deep and tried to crank up the speed for the final onslaught. Yelling to warn everyone to keep clear I careered wildly around the bend onto the final bitumen section and stood on the pedals. Slowly the speed built up again, 30 kph, 35 kph, 37 kph up the hill. That’s unbelievable. Over the bumps at nearly 40 kph – even Robbie McEwen couldn’t do that.
Finally with my heart pumping at 200+ beats per minute I charged through the last straight section and down the steep hill into the Warburton shops. I only had to successfully complete the last run down the main street to the coffee shop. I looked up for the first time to see the streets were literally lined with waving crowds. Surely they hadn’t all come to see me? The roar from the crowds gave me the final impetus to sprint for the finish (and the waiting cappucino) and as I finally swept into the coffee shop car park I was amazed to see that someone had painted boldly across the Main street of Warburton the words “DAWSON KWT” in bright white paint. Public recognition at last for a true champion.
With lungs bursting, chest heaving, heart pumping I collapsed at the nearest table and glanced down to my computer for the final time. It proudly told me the astounding truth of my epic ride – 27.3 km at an AVERAGE speed of 38.9 kph. The entire ride completed in only a little over 42 mins. Let the other mortals simply stand in awe and salute in open mouthed wonder. This was a record that would never be beaten.
I was a little disappointed that the media was not there to welcome me with a direct telecast of the Warburton finish, but I guess that no-one could take away the fact that history on a most monumental scale had been written on that day. On the other side of the planet the whole world was watching a few guys in lycra ride around France but true riding history had been indelibly written by a solitary rider on the Warby Trail on July 10th 2003.
As I slowly savoured the moment over my coffee and cakes I decided that I would take the return ride a little slower. After all I now had nothing left to prove. In fact I would never have to prove anything again – ever. With this in mind I took the ride back to Wandin at a more leisurely pace, averaging only 27 kph for the distance.
Back at the car I was able to reflect on the day’s events with some pride. But I could not help but feel a little cheated that the other members of the Warby Riders were not there to share my triumph. I suppose at least they could read this accurate account on the web site and some some of the vicarious glory.
P.S. As I climbed into the car I noticed the strangest bird flying in the sky. Large and pink it was unlike any other bird I had ever seen. It even appeared to have four legs and as it swooped low over my head I could have sworn I heard it make a sound a bit like an “OINK”. Maybe I had been trying just too hard after all.