After being away from the Warburton Trail for the past couple of months I was obviously keen to finally be able to get back onto familiar territory. While the Danube Bike Path is certainly spectacular, there is really nothing like home and we are certainly blessed with having one of the best bike trails in Australia almost on our doorstep.
Although I had been originally planning to start the ride at 12 noon and ride back up the hill to Mt Evelyn, circumstances conspired against me to make that impossible and I had to settle for “plan B” which was to start at Woori Yallock and only complete the shorter ride to Warburton and back. When I arrived I found “Little John” unpacking his bike and it was nice to be able to be able to catch up with such a good mate. He has been a stalwart of the group for many years and it is always good to have him along for a ride.
While I was chatting to John I also noticed that Rick and Anne Coxhill had turned up. Rick has been trying to get Anne into cycling for some time and he showed me the new bike that Anne has just become the proud owner of. This would be her first time on the trail and I was hoping that she would enjoy the experience. It was also good to see Helen Riethof out for her first ride in many months. Her husband’s illness has made it difficult for her to ride with us this year but it was encouraging to see her finally back in the saddle again.
We didn’t have to wait long before we were joined by the main group who had ridden down from COGS and we were soon happily riding along under a fine but cloudy sky towards Launching Place. I was amazed just how much surface water there was on the trail. Obviously the local area had received a large amount of rain in the preceding few days and the trail was probably as wet as I can ever remember it. But at least it wasn’t raining while we were riding.
We had not ridden far before someone started to put the pedal to the metal and increase the speed of the ride. This had the predictable effect of leaving some of the slower riders struggling to keep up, but I was hoping that we could regroup at Launching Place Pub. In the meantime I spent my time chatting with those who I had not seen for a long time. I always enjoy this part of the rides as I find it a fascinating way to get to know people.
When we arrived at Launching Place I noted that there were still a few riders coming up the trail behind us and let everyone know that we would need to wait for them. The problem arose when, as soon they were seen on the opposite side of the road, a small group took off and headed into the distance. I vainly shouted after them to get them to wait a little longer but my shouts were lost in the dust of the vanishing wheels.
That put paid to any chance we would have of riding together up to Warburton as, by the time the later group had joined us, we had riders spread far and wide along the trail. At that point the group splintered into a number of smaller units, one rider went missing altogether and a general state of confusion reigned. I joined a small group with three guys all of them named Bob and made my way to Milgrove. We waited and looked for anyone else who may have stopped there, found no one and then continued up the hill to Warburton.
We eventually found ourselves at the familiar Valley Bakery and sat down to enjoy lunch. A local identity carrying a guitar decided to sit with us and entertain us with a few songs. It would have been even better if he could have played or sung. After some time had elapsed it became obvious that the rest of the riders would not be making the ride up the hill and I assumed that they had stopped at Milgrove. I found out later that the slower group had found themselves so far behind that they decided that by the time they reached Warburton the rest would already be coming back again. As it was we never saw them again.
The return ride was also conducted in a rather splintered fashion with riders spread out from Launching Place to Milgrove. I could not help but feel that we had missed the opportunity for a genuine group ride. It is obvious that as the size of the group has grown it has become more and more difficult to ride in a cohesive manner. It will need a much wiser head than mine to solve this problem, maybe the time has come to split the ride across two different days of the week. Then each ride could cater for a different group of riders. Food for thought and discussion……