Although the long daylight hours of summer provide extra opportunities for cycling, I must admit that I am always a little relieved when we reach Autumn. I certainly prefer the peaceful beauty of a calm Autumn day to the fierce heat of midsummer, even if the sun sets a little earlier each day.
The early predictions of a “summer to end all summers” proved to be a little overly pessimestic, and for most of February we had actually enjoyed quite mild conditions. As I prepared for our final Thursday ride of this summer, the early indications were that we had not quite seen the end of the heat. At least the start of the ride was undertaken in pleasant conditions, and it was especially encouraging to see the (almost) universal wearing of the official yellow jerseys. I have always though that although we might not all be able to ride like champions, we can at least look the part.
Perhaps it was my imagination, or perhaps it was the effect of the yellow jerseys, but I seemed to detect an added spirit in the peloton. This was not so good for Robyn who had chosen this Thursday to complete her first full transit of the trail. With the testosterone flowing freely among the men, poor Robyn was soon left far behind (and that was on the downhill section of the ride !).
With “2 Bob” Leedham, Ray and Lex engaged in a battle of the bolters at the front of the group we were soon stretched to pelotonic fracture. The leaders even bolted straight through Woori Yallock without a moment’s hesitation. I found myself somewhere in the middle of the group trying to keep in touch with the leaders, while also trying to look out for the stragglers. By the time we reached Launching Place I managed to hold back the bolters for a few minutes, giving the rest a valued chance to catch their breath. In the meantime the temperature had been steadily increasing to near 30C, adding to the degree of difficulty of the ride.
When it became evident that Robyn and Peter were really a long way back we decided to proceed but “at a slower pace”. That was my idea anyway. Someone immediately turned up the wick again, until we were soon back in a battle for survival. Because I had not been certain of the numbers I did not order the sandwiches at Milgrove, allowing everyone to backslide into their bad old habbits of just eating coffee and cream cakes.
After an half hour break at Milgrove we still had seen no sign of Robyn or Peter. It was not until we were about to remount for the return ride that Peter finally arrived and announced that Robyn had collapsed on the side of the trail, about 1 km back. We immediately rode back to see what was the matter. We soon found Robyn lying prone on the grass and announcing that she could ride no further. This brought back unfortunate memories of John Seamons lying in the gutter at Nar Nar Goon after his first (and only) ride to Drouin.
We tried to make sure that Robyn was comfortable in the shade and gave her a stick to fend of the attacks of the local wild dogs before we departed on the rest of our ride. (Sometimes you just have to be cruel to be kind). After all, we still had over 25km of hot ride ahead of us. I suspected that some of the early pacesetters were now starting to regret their extravagant expenditure of energy on the outward ride. Heads started to drop as we pushed back into the head wind and the burning overhead sun.
After dropping quite a few riders at Woori Yallock, the two Bobs and I continued on to Mt Evelyn. Because of the heat, we stopped at the Seville water trough to stage a vigorous water fight. We were soon joined by a couple of attractive young mothers, both wearing skimpy shorts and halter tops. I could Bob (the elder) flex his calf muscles and I was worried that he was about to start recounting the stories of his epic “National Title Wins”. Before he could start, one of the women’s dogs jumped straight into the trough and proceeded to take a bath. This provided an opportunity for me to get Bob away from the temptation.
The final climb up to Mt Evelyn was undertaken at a leisurely pace and it was nice to be able to buy a refreshing cold drink at COGS cafe at the car park. This facility really is starting to develop a good following and maybe our early fears of its early demise were a little premature.
Next Thursday we have our first Autumn Ride. Hooray.