In Which New Recruits Rush to Join the Warbies

After the chronicle of confusion that constituted last week’s ride I was more than a little anxious that the Warbies aquit themselves with a lot more discipline this week. For almost three years I have tried to shape the rabble into something approaching a cycling club, but I could easily be excused for sometimes feeling that this objective was further away than ever.

At least the weather was being more cooperative – although still overcast and cool, it looked as if rain would not trouble today’s ride. Setting out early I arrived at Mt Evelyn at about 12.45 pm. As I looked about I could quickly see that there were no other Warbies in sight. The only other person in the car park was a rather shifty looking fellow on a mountain bike.

As I started unloading my bike I noticed that the other character was eying me suspiciously. I had previously been told to expect a new rider called Gary, but since I had no idea what this mysterious Gary looked like, I decided to eye him back again. This weird Mexican standoff continued for a few minutes, as I tried in vain to try to look like a “real” cyclist. With my stomach pulled in and my leg muscles tensed I realised that I could hardly move, but I knew that I did have an image to maintain.

After a few more minutes the other fellow relinquished his position of leaning against the fence post and came across to introduce himself. “My name’s Gary”, he announced. “I’ve already ridden over 150km today”. That was a hard line to follow, but I knew I had to try. “My name’s Dennis”, I responded. “I am the PRESIDENT of the Warbies and I have ridden to the top of Donna Buang THREE times in the past three years”, was the best I could think up on the spot. Gary soon explained that he usually rides up Donna Buang at least once a month and rides the Warby Trail three or four times every week.

By the time that our introductions were completed, we had been joined by Lex and Peter. I was also pleased to see that our new mate Roger had also appeared. Unlike last week, we might even get to complete a ride together. When Little John emeraged from the top of the trail, after riding back from Wandin, we were just about ready to start. Although there was no sign of JCL or Crasher Lewis, I knew that they would be just as likely to meet us further down the trail.

We soon settled into a good pace down the hill and this gave me the first opportunity to assess the state of the trail after the recent torrential rains. Somewhat surprisingly, it showed little signs of damage apart from a couple of fallen trees.

I was pleased to see that our peloton managed to retain good formation and that our two new riders seemed to be enjoying their first real introduction to what cycling is all about. Although I had tried to warn them about our most eccentric rider, I knew that that would soon have to find out for themselves just how “different” hooters really was.

As we aproached Woori Yallock we noticed John’s familiar shape approaching on the trail ahead. After a few brief introductions, we resumed our journey to Warburton (although at a very much reduced pace). Within a couple of minutes the trail was echoing with the familiar cries of “Why do we do this?”, “Why are we going so fast?”, “Headwind”, “Hill”, and the rest of his limited cycling vocabulary.

Although Roger looked concerned that John might be suffering from some weird sort of ailment, I had to assure him that John was always like this. As for his aliment it’s called “lack of backbone”. Roger shrugged and kept on riding.

At Launching Place we were able to show our new riders our special little secret detour and tried to prepare them for the spactacle that would soon unfold before their eyes. I suspected that they would not have seen elite cyclists engaged in serious sprinting before. Turning left into Settlement Rd, the pace increased slightly as riders jockeyed for the best positions in the peloton.

Roger Bridson – our second South African Warby

Bob had still not made an appearance and with Mal injured, it appeared that the sprint would have a smaller number of contestants than usual. Peter increased the speed again as we approached the mid point of the straight road. I tried to hold his wheel, while keeping a watchful eye out for Lex. The final 100 metres or so passed in a confusion of gear changes and flying pedals and somehow I managed to slip past the others to cross the line first.

One of the simple pleasures of these rides is the chance to enjoy a light lunch at the Warburton coffee shop. You can imagine my disappointment when I entered the shop, only to be told that they had “no sandwich fillings left”.

A few minutes later I was sulking outside at the table, wondering just how long my sausage roll had been slowly drying out in the oven. At least the coffee was good.

The time at Warburton also gave us a good chance to get to know Gary and Roger better. Before joining our peloton, Gary had already shown us his skill as an artist by e-mailing me a succession of brilliant cartoons and caricatures of our riders. This is a skill that could really come in handy. The biggest worry is that he could be a little TOO strong for our group.

Gary – currently auditioning to become our official club artist

When I told Gary that we had done the Round the Bay ride last year, he replied that he had done that “dozens of times” and that he usually does the “double circuit”, just for fun.

I then tried to impress him with accounts of our other triumphant rides – Upper Yarra Dam “done that”, The Bump “done that”, Great Southern “done that”, Mt Everest by tricycle “done that”. This guy is absolutely unflappable. No wonder Bob had decided to stay home for the day – he was probably hiding under his bed.

We did, however, have one challenge left for him. I explained to him that all would be Warbies have to be able to climb El Capitan. Somewhat surprisingly he did NOT reply that he had already “done that”.

As we stopped at the familiar imposing South Face of El Capitan, I studied the faces of Roger and Gary. Did they look scared? Not in the slightest.

After a couple of practise runs, Roger earned everyone’s respect by successfully powering all the way to the top in his LOWEST GEAR. The stage was set for Gary’s attempt. Up he went in a blaze of furious pedalling. HAlfway up there was an ominous series of cracks emitted from his overworked derailleurs and he was soon sprawling sideways in the mud. That was more like it. My spirits lifted notably as I yelled “We have all done that climb, it’s not that hard”.

Roger powers past the hapless Gary on his succesful summit attempt.

Gary tried a few more times, with similar results. I guess he’s not quite up to the top standard yet, but that’s OK, with our professional guidance we will help him become a real cyclist, even if it takes a few years. As he rejoined the peloton he looked a little crestfallen (and his knicks were more than a little grubby).

The return sprint was another hotly disputed affair that saw Peter leading out far too early. Although I was able to hold his wheel we both knew that Lex was being given a free lift all the way to the finish. I managed to get past Peter but by that stage I had little left in the tank and this gave Lex the chance he needed to pass me and sweep over the line first. Well done Lex.

Since Gary lives at Yarra Junction he parted company at this point and left the remainder of us to cycle back without him. Woori Yallock saw Hooters back in the security of his car, leaving five in the reducing peloton.

After Little John left us as at Wandin we were reduced to four. Lex and Peter bolted up the hill, leaving Roger and me to make up the rear. Back at the car park, Roger confided that this had been the first time he had ridden more than 40km in a day. I suspect that he has the potential to improve rapidly and quickly become a real power rider in the group.

All in all, another memorable and fun ride.