The final Thursday ride for winter is always a cause for some celebration. Cyclists the world over eagerly look forward to the warmer days of springtime and the shedding of the unsightly winter pelts of fleecy arm , leg and ear warmers. Even though the calendar assured us that August still had a couple of days left and therefore it was still technically winter, the unbroken blue sky and the mid 20s temperature meant that we already felt that the seasons had already changed.
It was not surprising that we had a big group of riders gathered at COGS for the start of the ride. The premature exposure of quivering white flesh was a little harder to take. The only downside to the weather was the gale force wind that was whistling through the trees above our heads. Although it would be behind us for some of the ride, we well knew that according to the inviolate laws of cycling, we would have a head wind for at least 90% of the entire ride.
As we made our way from Mt Evelyn to Woori Yallock the Ghost Rider train gathered additional passengers steadily. In fact, by the time we stopped at the Woori Yallock station for a drink the group had grown to over 20 riders. Not only was the number of riders impressive but, contrary to all expectations, we managed to all stay together all the way to Milgrove. An undeniable maifestation of pelotonic precision in all its rare glory.
It was just past Launching Place Pub that a most unexpected phenomenon was observed. Standing by the side of the trail was a ghostly apparition of two yellow clad riders. As we drew closer we could clearly see that they were both wearing Ghost Rider jerseys and were leaning up against their bikes. To everyone’s amazement the two bystanders turned out to be none other than Hooters and the Spanner, neither of whom we had seen for months. Apparently they had dressed themselves up and had come out just to watch us ride by. I guess it was a bit like those fans who go to the cricket dressed up in the Australian uniform.
It was not until we reached the Milgrove to Warburton section that the self control proved too much and the mounting pressure of testostorone fueled trail rage burst assunder with a wild bunch of breakaway riders making an unholy charge up to Warburton. With cranks spinning and bells honking I noticed that several perambulator pushing women diving to the side of the path to circumvent a collision of horrible proportions. The worst group of offenders were led by Werner with Bob and Garth in hot pursuit. You would think that they were riding for some sort of yellow jersey.
Further back along the trail was spread the remnants of what was once the organised peloton. I noticed that “Chook” Vandendool was riding about 30 metres in front of me but he seemed to be not concentrating all that hard. I managed to accelerate and pass him just before the finish line – a beautiful piece of cycling if I say so myself. Chook did not seem as impressed as I had hoped at my brilliant passing manoevre.
After the rapid excursion up to Warburton it was a U turn and then back to Milgrove for a well deserved lunch in the sunshine. This gave us a chance to count the riders – 24 in all (not counting the two costumed onlookers). What a fine way to finish the winter season. Once the warmer weather sets in permanently and some of our ancient riders return from hibernation and extended northern holidays, I suspect that we will soon break the elusive 30 riders. If only we could all agree on the design of the new jerseys we would certainly pose an impressive sight on the trail.
The return ride turned out to be not as difficult as we had at first feared. The wind was still blowing strongly but seemed to be mostly coming in from the side, allowing us all to get safely back to our cars without expending too much valuable energy. It had been another very enjoyable ride and the highlight of my week.