In Which John Encounters a Snake in the Grass

Arriving a few minutes early at Mt Evelyn, I thought it would be wise to spend the time readjusting my front derailleur. After the unfortunate events of last week I could not afford to blow a victory in the sprint through another chain jump. While I was doing this, Peter arrived and I was able to give him a short lesson in how to correctly service a bicycle. He seemed a less than attentive student.

Sonn we were joined by Bob, who had taken the opportunity to ride all the way from Lilydale. His puffing lungs and liberal coating of sweat indicated that he had been putting in a serious effort. Speaking of effort, John had already rung in to inform us that he would be reducing his even further by starting at Woori Yallock. Apparently the previous week’s exertions had taken a toll on his stamina, and he was more determined than ever to ride at a pace commensurate with his age.

With a blue sky and a temperature of about 22C, it was pretty close to perfect riding conditions. As the kilometres started to roll by we could feel the stresses of the past week falling by the wayside. It was so idyllic to be riding through the forest, serenaded only by the chorus of birdsong that was everywhere around us.

At least it was idyllic until we were interrupted by a series of unplesant raucous electronic toots and a shout of “Hey Dad, wait for me”. At first I started to think the warm sunshine had induced some sort of unpleasant auditory hallucinations, but repeated shouts of “Slow Down Guys” soon revealed the truth. John had apparently been resting in the shade near Killara doing some slow stretches, while we rode past without noticing him. Now he was behind us and in a state of panic.

Although we were only going at about 25 kph, enjoying a somewhat leisurely ride in the Autum sun, John insisted we slow down even further to give him a chance of catching the peloton. Five minutes later we had to stop for the first of many drinks.

Soon after the drinks stop Bob and I were about 100m in the lead while Peter and John were chatting in the rear. We turned a corner and then noticed that our rearmost riding companions had disappeared altogether. After waiting for a few moments we turned back to see if some sort of mischief had befallen them. Earlier in the ride we had dished out savage abuse to a lunatic motorycle rider who had roared past us. Maybe he had returned with his mates?

When we found them we noticed that John was ashen faced and shaking. What could possibly have happened we wondered? By the time his few wits had returned he was able to explain that he had ridden right over the top of a snake that was crossing the path. Apparently it was enormous and almost certainly some sort of rare venemous anaconda that must have escaped from some research establishment. John said that he felt sure he was a dead man, but somehow escaped through the incredible leg strength he possessed. “By utilising my unique stamina I was able to outrun the attacking snake, and make good my escape” he earnestly explained.

Bob and I could only look on and marvel. This was indeed two firsts for the Warby Trail – a snake attack AND John exceeding 30 kph. Maybe we could do with a few more snakes along the trail. Perhaps if we attached a live snake to John’s rear mudguard he would be motivated to set new speed records every week.

The outward sprint was hotly contested, with a long lead in. Forunately I did not suffer another mechanical mishap and managed to cross the line in a photo finish with Bob at about 42 kph.

The time spent in Waburton was pure bliss – lot’s of caffeine, cakes and conversation. We even saw a couple of elite cyclists race down the highway behind a pace motorcycle. Although we had to admire their style, we all agreed that they probably would not have the dedication to tackle the Warby Trail every week with John (like we do).

Each week on the return trip we pass a very steep bitumen road. Although we have often joked how someone should give it a go, up till now no-one had been silly enough to try. John and I relentlessly urged Bob to “show us that he is not just a show pony”. Eventually he headed off up the hill, but had to admit defeat after about 70 metres. When he came back he started putting the blame on his bike. “if I had more gears, I would waltz up that hill with one leg” he claimed between laboured breaths. We shook our heads and left him to catch up.

There was still one final remarkable event to occur on this ride that needs to be recorded for posterity. At the start of the long straight we arrived in tight formation, ready for the final sprint. The pace inevitable quickly increased – 25 kph, 30 kph, then hovered on a steady 35 kph, with about half the run completed. You could imagine our unbelief when we heard the familiar cry “Hey slow down”, not from about 1 km behind, but from WITHIN the peloton. John’s experience with the snake must have actually put some fight in his bones, because he had NEVER travelled this fast before. It was only when the final accleration took place that he fell behind. We had to agree that, finally, John had shown some fighting spirit. Well done.

Forty five minutes later we were back at Mt Evelyn and discussing how much we are all looking forward to Wangarrata. We sounded like little kids talking about how many sleeps till Christmas. Funny how cycling just sort of gets in your blood……