With Crasher Lewis taking up permanent residence in his sick bed, our traditional Settlement Rd sprints have become a much more open affair. One of the undoubted highlights of each Thursday’s ride is the sight of 7 or 8 “elite” cyclists all rushing towards the finishing post at high speed and in extremely close formation. With flashing legs and crashing gears it must certainly be one of the most spectacular events in the cycling calendar.
As I unpacked mny bike at Mt Evelyn I felt confident that I would be able to achieve yet another high ranking in the sprint later that afternoon. When I took a closer look at the opponents I was even more sure of my chances. After all, where would the competition come from? Surely not from an ageing bike repairman whose calves were more for show than go? Although JCL always performs well in the hill climbs he has not got the sheer horsepower to seriously challenge over short distances on the flat. Lex is a dark horse but surely his age will eventually catch up with him (or so I keep hoping). Gary also looks like a force to be reckoned with, but he always seems to have an excuse for not putting in on the sprints. John Green (our newest probationary rider) also looks like a likely looking rider but had not demonstrated top sprint form yet. Mal hadn’t even turned up. All in all I figured my chances were looking good.
Before we set off Gary explained how his car had been unfortunately written off during the week (obviosuly by some guy with a grudge against the Ghost Riders), so he would not be riding past Woori Yallock. I pretended to be concerned, while mentally crossing his name off the list of potential sprint winners. Odds on another Smoky win looking better and better.
At Wandin we were met by Roger and Mary, as well as Cheryl (again prepared for Antarctic conditions). Roger is a serious competitor who likes to perform well, but he is still building up his stamina. Mary has demonstrated a deal of ability on her previous rides, but, being a woman, could not be expected to take out the sprint. I could almost see myself crossing the line in first place already.
Things started to take an unfortunate turn for the worse at Woori Yallock where we were joined by Spanner Billson and Bolter Doswell. We all know that anyone who has a disease named after him, is not someone to be taken too lightly. Mal has previously perfected the disgraceful art of “peloton busting”, by staging unsightly bolts at the most inappropriate moments, thereby leaving the peloton spread out over several km in his wake. This tendency is now known throughout the cycling world as “Doswell’s Disorder”. Anyone suffering from this unfortunate disorder has only themselves to blame.
It was at about this time my mind started ticking. Tactics would be very important if I was to gain the top podium place as I had originally planned. Maybe there were other ways I could snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.
Sure enough, it did not take long for Mal to increase the pace in the flat section to Launching Place. Heart rates started to elevate, mouths started to salivate, peloton started to disintegrate, my hopes started to deteriorate. At the traffic lights we waited for the group to reform, but all too soon Mal bolted up the highway yet again. I tried to sit on his wheel and pretend I was comfortable, but my gaping mouth was probably a bit of a giveaway.
The final left turn into Settlement Rd saw Mal and I closely together with another bunch challenging a short distance behind. With the finish line still a full 1200 metres away Mal turned up the wick to about 35 kph. Extremely unsporting behaviour in anyone’s language. Peter and Lex decided to catch up and start the sprint at that point. I watched them quickly disappear into the distance. It appeared as if the sprint was lost – or was it? There is no point being born with brains if we don’t learn to use them.
About 10 minutes later as the group slowly started to reform I was able to tell the three bolters about the new “Sprint Rules” that took effect from today. According to the new rules, the sprint does NOT start until 100m from the finish line. Up to that point the peloton is subject to a strict 30 kph limit. Any rider breaking this rule of course would be disqualified. These rules are essential for an orderly and sportsmanlike event. They also meant that I was elevated from FOURTH PLACE to FIRST PLACE. I guess rank really does have its priveleges after all.
Although the weather did not turn out quite as fine as the forecast had predicted it was still a good afternoon for riding (and coffee drinking). Another leisurely half hour was spent at the coffee shop talking about tomorrow night’s dinner and other equally trivial matters. Then it was time to mount up and head back.
As has become the norm, the return ride was performed with a little more pelotonic discipline, although Spanner Billson did attempt a fast breakaway from Milgrove. It is amazing how much faster he rides when Hooters is not there to hold him back.
The return sprint was undertaken in a much more organised fashion with the final run for the line fiercely contested. With about 50 m to go I had a lead of 2 metres over Mal, but my speed had already peaked at 46 kph. There was nothing left in my tank and I could hear Mal breathing heavily as he slowly eroded my slim lead. With eyes bulging and hearts thumping we both crossed the line side by side, only a photo finish could have decided who actually won. Now that’s what I call a real sprint.
Twenty minutes later Mal had recovered enough to again get back on his bike and resume the ride back to Woori Yallock. As the pace slackened the peloton again condensed allowing us to enjoy a chat as we rode along. On the final section back to Wandin Mal and JCL staged their own hill climb event back to the car park. I was later informed that JCL managed to hold off Mal’s late charge to win the polka dot jersey. Since I was about 1 km back I will have to take his word for it.
Five o’clock saw us all back at Mt Evelyn after another great ride. I guess some of us have now ridden this trail over 100 times, but it still gives us so much fun that we can’t wait to come back again next week for another go. John Green (aka Benedict) has now completed half of his probationary period and is settling in well. Mary (aka Queenie) also looks like she has the making of a good Ghost Rider, completing another strong ride.
If you haven’t joined us on a ride yet, what’s stopping you?