In Which Sun Swells the Peloton

Ever since returning from Nepal almost three months ago, I have had the misfortune to have been struck down with an extended bout of poor (aka abysmal) cycling form. Huge climbs like the “Col de Wandin” and the “Col d’Evelyn” on the Warby Trail that I used to be able to ride up at a heady 17 kph I now struggle to wobble up at 12 kph. While everyone would no doubt agree as to current form loss, where we disagree is to the best way to overcome such a handicap.

According to the old hard men of the peloton the only way to regain form is through long strenuous hours in the saddle. Since I figure that I know my own body better than anyone else, I prefer to follow my own approach, whereby a loss of form is to be tackled by getting more rest, eating more and reducing the length and frequency of rides. I have also decided to assist the process by ditching my Avanti and returning to my old spongy suspensioned, plastic pedalled and fat tyred Norco comfort bike. I have even deliberately not replaced the flat battery in the speedo – I don’t to be continually reminded of just how slow I am riding. It seems simple common sense that, if I wait long enough, I am sure that my previous legendary form will eventually return. If it doesn’t, at least I will have enjoyed myself in the meantime.

The past couple of mornings have been the coldest that Melbourne has endured for some years – so much for Global Warming. Each morning I have awoken to find my car hidden under a thick layer of white ice. The consolation has been that the afternoons are full of sunshine and clear blue skies. I determined that today I would get away on time (even if the phone was still ringing), eagerly anticipating a sunny afternoon on my favourite trail.

A look at the official annals of the group shows me that it is now over 7 years ago that John and I first started our Thursday rides on the Warburton Trail. On the very first ride, John set the tone by announcing for everyone within 200 metres to hear that “we are weckweational widers” (under no circumstances to be confused with testosterone charged ageing Tour de France wannabees). This is a proud tradition that has been maintained ever since.

On that first ride John and I never dreamed that so many others would want to join us on our little weekly jaunts along the trail. I have now lost count of the number of times I have been along the familiar path, but it has to be well over 300. And not once could I ever say that it has been boring. To the contrary I never cease to stop reminding myself just how privileged we are to have such a beautiful area right on our doorsteps.

Because the weather was just SO perfect I decided to kill several birds with the same stone. I left the office with the bike strapped on the car and my cycling clothes underneath my “work” clothes. Since I had a couple of jobs to do in the general area of Woori Yallock my plan was to head straight off to the ride as soon as the mundane stuff was completed. To my relief I actually finished in double quick time and arrived at Woori Yallock at 11.15 am. This gave me ample time to ride to Mt Evelyn and half way down the hill to Lilydale where I met Bill coming in the opposite direction.

Bill could not wait to extol the virtues of his new Merida mountain bike. I had to admit that it certainly looked impressive with its vast array of springs, pistons, levers, switches, toggles, widgets and gadgets. I am not sure whether such a machine is designed to be ridden or just tinkered with. At least it was made of good old aluminium and not the trendy carbon fibre that so many of the new range of bikes seem to have adopted. I guess time alone will tell just how durable some of these bikes prove to be, but I must admit that I certainly would feel more confident with a metal frame if I was pounding along some god forsaken single track horror ride. I think it’s time that the term “plastic mountain bike” was well and truly relegated to the list of cycling oxymorons, along with such terms as “a welcome puncture” and a “helpful headwind”.

Since we were still quite early, Bill and I even had time for a civilised cup of coffee at the Mt Evelyn coffee shop before joining the assembled throng at COGS. And throng would be an appropriate word for the huge number of yellow jerseyed riders waiting in the sunshine. In fact it could easily have been our biggest starting group ever. It is amazing just how a blue sky and a little bit of sunshine brings out all the fair weather riders from their winter doldrums.

Even more amazing was the fact that we almost managed to keep the group together for most of the ride to Woori Yallock. Along the way we were joined by several other riders. This type of pelotonic accretion resulted in our numbers swelling to almost 30 by the time we reached the customary rest stop. If that was not amazing enough, much more amazing by far was the fact that one of the latest accretants was no less than the original Hooters. Every now and again he makes an appearance, if for no other reason than to prove to our newer riders that he actually does exist. It was also great to see Lisa Barstow on her first Thursday ride for many long months and also Russell Lloyd, back from his extended holiday in Queensland.

Since it was such a delightful day I made the suggestion that we should all continue up to Warburton and support the newly reopened Valley Bakery. For years this was our watering hole of choice but, in more recent times, it had suffered some indifferent ownership, leading to its closure. A couple of weeks ago it had reopened under new management and the new owners seemed keen to build a good business based on fresh produce and good pricing. When we arrived, the sun was still shining and we were all able to enjoy a time of friendly conversation while we drank our coffees (out of real mugs). It became obvious that a small group had not been able to complete the full ride and had stopped at Milgrove instead. I would have to admit that I was most impressed with the food and would like to suggest that we share our patronnage between the two bakeries on future rides.

On the return ride the peloton broke into several smaller sub groups, leaving yellow clad riders scattered all the way between Milgrove and Launching Place. Compared to the mishap filled rides of the past couple of weeks it had been a very welcome contrast. Not only had we enjoyed perfect conditions with a gigantic peloton, but we had also escaped completely puncture (and crash) free. What a day !

Since it was such a glorious day a decision was made that we should continue all the way to Warburton and lunch at the reopened Valley Bakery