Sometimes it happens to all of us. One minute you are pedalling along strongly and the next minute you feel like your legs have gone hollow. As I watched the peloton pedal away from me into the distance, I started to accept that I would not be earning any sprint points today.
Up to that point the ride had gone quite well. We had our latest recruit Mark back with us for another ride and, in addition, had been joined by two other new riders who were riding with us for the firat time. Phil and Matt had met us as Wandin and quickly settled into a comfortable pace. Although it may have been their first ride with us, it was obvious that it certainly was not their first time on a bike.
Peter had not been able to join us for today’s ride, because he was back in his shop eagerly waiting for word of his first grandchild. At his great age I would have thought that great grandchildren would be more the order of the day, but apparently cycling and fertility do not mix. (We later heard that his grandson had been delivered and mother and son were both doing well).
I tried to keep my thoughts on the job in hand and tried to increase the pace but the faithful HASA just did not want to cooperate. It started to feel like I was riding through thick glue – maybe I was not fully recovered from my recent dose of flu after all? It was only when I decided to look down at my front wheel that I saw the reason for my lack of forward progress. My front tyre was as flat as a pancake.
As I pulled to the side of the trail and started to get myself covered in mud and grease I quickly started to miss Peter’s presence on the ride. If he had been there I could have had a nice rest while he set about repairing the faulty tube. With Peter nowhere in sight I had no choice but to fix it myself. This sad spectacle was soon witnessed by several interested onlookers, including Crasher, Cracker and Glenda. Eventually I had the new tube inserted and inflated and we were able to continue on our way again, however by that time I knew that the rest would be so far ahead that I would not see them again.
You can imagine my surprise when I rounded the final corner up to Launching Place and found them all waiting at the lights. I could only asssume that they were (a) genuinely concerned for my wellbeing or (b) incapable of making any progress without the President being present.
The remainder of the ride to Milgrove proceeded without further incident, however since I was not so confident of my repair job and did not have any other tubes I decided to stop at the coffee and get a head start on my coffee while the others continued up to Warburton. I could also see that Big Al was already there waiting for the group to arrive.
After his spectacular crash on the Phillip Island when he achieved the most dramatic face plant in the short history of the Ghost Riders I was anxious to see if his face would be recognisable at all. The whole world had seen the horrific results of his facial “alterations” on our web site and I was keen to see how he was. Somewhat surprisingly he did not look all that bad. Most of the scabs had already been picked off with his fingernails and the new skin was already starting to show through the weeping pus. I am sure that by the time he turns 80 you will hardly be able to distinguish the results of his smash at all.
For some reason when the other returned from their trip up the mountain they did not express any sympathy but instead just railed against me for not riding all the way. Sometimes I just can’t win. Once they noticed Big Al he quickly became the centre of attention as he was able to recount the entire story of his accident/ “I don’t remember anything”, was how his story went. Personally I would never have let lack of perfect memory spoil the opportunity to enjoy a good tale. I felt he was not making the most of his 15 minutes of fame.
When the time came for us to continue on our merry way we all bade farewell to Alan and pointed our bikes back towards Melbourne. For the sake of safety the sprint was relocated from Settlement Rd to the quiet dead end street that leads to the bridge. This is a much safer location but we will need to work out some new standing orders and also define a finishing point. I was pleased to see the new riders throw themselves into the spirit of the ride with gusto. The thrill of the sprint must have distracted Phil somewhat as he performed an unseemly decleating accident at the Launching Place traffic lights, watched by the rest of the group and about 6 cars stopped at the lights. Just as well he wasn’t wearing the famous yellow jersey.
Fortunately the remainder of the ride was achived without further debacle and we all made it safely back to our cars without further puncture or incident. Fourteen riders had been able to participate in our first springtime ride of 2006.