The weather forecast sounded more like a Steven King horror story than an encouragement to get out on the trail – “storm force winds, hail, snow down to 700 metres, top temperature of 9C” in fact everything except possibly the chance of earthquakes and volcanoes. This was the sort of prospect that leaves even the keenest riders looking for any excuse to stay home in the warm and dry.
With the rain coming down in sheets on my office windows I was almost a little disappointed when I studied the weather radar and found that in fact it looked as if the worst of the rain would be past in an hour or so. That sent my best excuse flying out the window. A short time later I found myself heading out dressed in the warmest winter gear I could find. Although it was still freezing cold (7C) the skies actually showed some signs of lightening a little. I could not help but wonder if anyone else would be silly enough to venture out on the trail on such a day.
It was not until I arrived at Woori Yallock and spied a couple of familiar cars that I started to appreciate that I would not be alone after all. Since I was running late I hastily grabbed the bike and started off. It only took about 100 metres for me to realise that I would be riding into the Mother of All Headwinds all the way to Seville. At that point of time I was glad that it was too late for me to make it all the way to Mt Evelyn.
With the speed wound up to a heady 7 or 8 kph and my chain stretched almost to breaking point, I wobbled my way into the tumult. I was sure glad for the long sleeved jersey, rain jacket, long fingered gloves, ear and leg warmers that I was wearing. So much for “global warming” I thought as my nose started to drip profusely. I also started to think of the members who are currently lazing away in Queensland and of Bob Patterson, about to jet away back to Vanuatu for the rest of winter. I guess life was never meant to be either fair or easy.
The section between Woori Yallock and Killara threw some of the fiercest head winds I think I can ever remember in my 250 or transits of this trail. All I could do was console myself with the prospect of having a magnificent tail wind on the return leg. Somehow I struggled up the short climb to Killara and sought out the temporary protection from the forest. Fortunately by the time I made it to Seville I was met by the small group already on its way from Mt Evelyn (a distinct advantage of starting late).
It was a relief to turn around and enjoy the wind assist as I joined the others. What bliss it is to ride a bike when the hurricane is blowing from behind. We flew along the track and were even more pleased when extra riders joined us along the way. Waiting at Woori Yallock was Lisa Barstow who had not been out on a Thursday ride for some time. Also at Woori Yallock was Bob Patterson, out on his last ride before jetting back to sunny Vanuatu. Most surprising was the sight of Crasher Lewis – he NEVER ventures out if there is even the slightest prospect of getting his legs wet. Apparently he checked the weather radar and was confident that he would be able to complete a dry ride. This brought our final peloton size to 9 riders, not a bad result considering the freezing conditions.
There was still one mystery however. Paul Barnard had been sighted riding along the trail toward Mt Evelyn but there was no longer any sign of him. We could only assume that, because of his diminuative size, he had been blown away by the wind. At times like this I am almost glad that I am built like a Teletubby. It would take a wind of Biblical proportions to blow me away.
We eventually gave up waiting for Paul and just hoped that, when the wind finally dropped him, it would somewhere within riding distance of his car. The rest of us had some serious lunching in mind and let the wind carry us rapidly to the coffee shop. A large hot meat pie, coffee and cake helped restore some of the energy I had expended. A glance to the heavens even revealed a few breaks of blue sky and sunshine.
With full tummies we finally saddled up again and put our noses to the handlebars for the familar ride back to Woori Yallock. I was trying to estimate just how many times I have now ridden this trail and came up with the result that it was somewhere between 250 and 300 times ! I guess it’s no wonder that Bicycle Victoria now considers the Ghostriders to be the undisputed owners of the Warburton Trail.