In Which Duncan Stages a Comeback

Those of our riders who have been with us for a long time may remember that way back in the Ghost Rider Dreamtime we had a fine cyclist called Duncan who used to be a keen regular at most of our weekend rides. Duncan has completed several Round the Bays, climbed Donna Buang and participated in numerous other extended rides. Due to a heart condition he has not been able to ride very much over the past couple of years but I have been able to keep in regular touch with him and knew that he was keen to get back in the saddle again as soon as possible.

You can imagine my excitement when I spoke to Duncan this week and he informed me that he would be coming out to complete a ride up the Warby Trail. I was hoping that we would be able to provide him with a nice day so that his comeback ride would be one that he would be able to enjoy. Since Duncan was a little out of condition he decided to start at Woori Yallock and that is where I met him to reintroduce him to the trail.

As I climbed out of the car I was almost knocked off my feet by the hurricane force wind ripping along the valley. We have had some windy days in the past but this one was surely one of the fiercest we had encountered in the past five years. Since we were a little early I suggested that we ride a short distance back towards Mt Evelyn to meet up with the main peloton.

This soon turned out to be a stupid idea. Within the first couple of hundred metres it was apparent that we were heading right into the face of the gale. As I wobbled from side to side and tried to stay upright I realised afresh just how much I HATE head winds. Although hills are a challenge, head winds are downright evil and capricious. They can turn any ride into a battle for survival. I had no choice but to tuck in behind Duncan and try to gain some shelter from the wind. I told him that I would stay behind him to make sure that “he would be alright”. I am not sure if he agreed with my logic.

The short ride to Killara seemed to take about 30 mins but we eventually were joined by the downwind group and were relieved to be able to complete a U turn and enjoy a wind assist for the next several kilometres. Somewhere between Woori Yallock and Launching Place I again started to labour and thought that the wind must have swung around and be back in our faces. The problem was that no-one else seemed to be having the same problem as I was. After a kilometre or so of this battle I looked down and noticed that I had been riding on a flat front tyre! No wonder the going was so hard.

The flat tyre was bad enough but my situation was exacerbated by the fact that Peter was not yet present to repair the tyre for me. This meant that I would have to do the job myself with the rest of the group looking on. I struggled with the tyre levers and eventually managed to remove the tyre from the rim and get started on inserting the new tube. Fortunately Peter arrived at about this time and spared me from displaying my incompetence to the whole world. I did however have to pump the rotten thing back up again. Fortunately the tyre stayed up for the rest of the ride.

Since our regular watering stop was closed we had to ride on to Warburton before we could grab our coffee and lunch. This gave us a good chance to huddle in the warmth of the Valley Bakery while the weather went pear shaped outside. The skies darkened and soon opened up with a steady drizzle of rain. It looked like we were in for a cold and wet return ride. No one seemed too much in a hurry to get back outside and on to their bikes.

It was at about this time a rare miracle occured. The clouds lifted, the rain stopped and we were able to head off without getting covered in mud. Even more remarkably, the sun even broke through on a few occasions and blessed us with some warmth. With the shelter of the trees, even the wind was not such a big obstacle that it had been earlier in the afternoon.

We all settled into a good rhythm and managed to make our way back to Woori Yallock without further incident. Duncan seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed his ride and later came over to my place with his wife to sit in front of the fire and watch my new cycling video of the greatest CRASHES in cycling history. What a perfect way to finish a big day.