Six years ago, when the Ghostriders first started riding the Warburton Trail each Thursday afternoon, one precept was clearly stated – “The Ghostriders was a MENS’ Cycling Group”. John Seamons was adamant that no female would ever be able to maintain the blistering 15 kph pace that he sometimes managed to achieve on the downhill sections and they certainly would not be able to ride the 20 km distance that he sometimes achieved.
Over the next couple of years as more riders joined in and the speed and length of the rides increased, I often had reason to reconsider our exclusion of women. Looking around at the aged (and let’s face it – rather ugly) male faces in the peloton I started to think that it would add some extra colour and glamour to our rides if we had a few women to share the trail with. Thus we decided to rescind our earlier regulation and open the group to anyone who wanted to ride with us and who shared the same light hearted and irreverent approach that we have to just about avery thing.
By 2006 we had gained quite a few female riders in the group and had reached the stage that we had more females than males on our first Great China Ride. We have discovered that the women certainly add a lot to the group and their organisational skills and unique insights are certainly needed. A couple of weeks ago I had an enquiry from two new females wanting to ride with us, but they wanted to know whether there would be other women in the group. I quickly replied that we always welcome new recruits and that there are ALWAYS women in the peloton. As it turned out, when Wendy and Danielle turned out for their first ride – for the first time in ages no other female riders turned up! I tried to assure them that we really did have other women in the group but I am not sure they believed me.
I was very pleased to see Wendy return for another ride with us and was hoping that she would get the chance to meet some of our other members of the elusive petticoat peloton. To my relief the warmer weather and sunshine obviously helped rouse some of the women from their winter hibernations and it was good to see no fewer than 5 members of the fairer sex in the Thursday ride.
As far as the ride itself, there is not a lot to report as there were no crashes, no magpie injuries and no Crasher Lewis. In fact this was the fifth week that Crasher has stayed home in bed, waiting for after the Lungbuster to make his dramatic recovery and reappearance in the peloton. The magpies also mostly stayed clear – that is until we reached the notorious “Magpie Alley” between Launching Place and Yarra Junction.
I decided to follow close behind 2Bob who was decked out with about 30 cable ties protruding from his helmet. He looked like some sort of obscene amalgam of a medieval Joker and the Medusa, but I was curious to see if his ridiculous attire would have any effect in repelling the magpies. Although I could see black and white feathered activities in the trees overhead I had to admit that they were keeping their distance. We had almost made the relative safety of the Warburton Highway crossing when I felt the sudden warmth of a fresh dollop of creamy bird poo slide down my left arm. I could only assume that the magpie had been aiming for 2Bob but had miscalculated our high speeds and had dropped his load on me instead. I had no choice but to continue on to Milgrove with the deposit hardening in the afternoon sun. Maybe it was my imagination but I could swear that I could hear the sound of avian laughter in the trees behind me.
Fortunately by the time we reached Milgrove my initial disgust had waned somewhat and I could see the funnier side of the situation. After all, everything seems much better when you have a mug of coffee in one hand and a large cream cake in the other.
Everyone seemed in good cheer as we rode back to Woori Yallock and Mt Evelyn. With springtime now well advanced and the weather getting warmer with each passing week, it was nice to be rid of the unsightly arm and leg warmers. Like mammals shedding their winter pelts, the peloton has been undergoing a steady metamorphosis as we head towards the long hot days of summer.