I have always maintained that absolutely anything can happen while riding the Warburton Trail. In the past we have had crashes, punctures, been attacked by dogs, magpies and flies, assisted at births, ridden through floods and hurricane force winds, done battle with the Eastern Vets, consumed hundreds of cream cakes, suffered loose cranks and noisy hooters, and survived untold other disasters, both great and small alike. In spite of the above events, I had reason to believe that our last ride of the Summer would be relatively uneventful.
After all, the weather was perfect, John was away in New Guinea teaching the natives how to insert batteries in their new torches, Mal had disappeared again, so what else could happen? Peter, Bob and I started off at Mt Evelyn in high spirits on yet another transit of the Trail. Although we could have expected that the pace would be a cracker, no-one seemed prepared to really push. I think we were more prepared to savour the last ride of the season.
It is always such a tonic to get away from the pressures of work for a couple of hours and spend some time enjoying the great scenery and the fun that comes with having good friends. This all changed somewhat when Peter decided to try yet another tactic on the outward Intermediate Sprint. About 3 km before the finish line he had already wound the speed up to about 35 kph, obviously trying to burn out the weaker riders (ie me). All I could do was try to hold his wheel and hope that I would still have something in reserve when the time came.
This formation was held for what seemed like an eternity. All the while Bob was quietly idling along, just waiting for someone to bolt. I waited till about 100 metres from the line, dropped to top gear and managed to pull around Peter. With only 20 metres to go I almost believed that I had a chance, but then I heard that familiar swishing noise rapidly approaching from behind. Sure enough, by the time the finish line was crossed, Bob was right beside me, but the result was too close to call.
The remaining 10 km or so to Warburton went in a blurry haze. My heart was pumping so hard that I cannot remember much of what transpired during the rest of the ride. After another frantic sprint along the Main Rd of Warburton, it was a relief to finally collapse at the Valley Bakery and settle down to an extended lunch.
Once I had recharged with some caffeine and cream I began to feel much better, although I was a little concerned with the clicking sound my bike had been making all the way from Mt Evelyn. I could not see anything about to fall off and had to conclude that it was just another hiiden peculiarity of my old bike, finding its way to the surface.
By the time the clock had passed 3 pm we knew it was time to saddle up again for the return ride. There were few riders or walkers in evidence as we pushed our way back along the trail. The temperature had risen a few degrees and I could feel my mouth drying out as we slowly increased the pace. I was starting to look forward to a pitstop at the drinking trough at Killara, but that was still some time off.
I will not dwell on the results of the return sprint race, suffice to say that Bob again put in a big effort to take the points. My heart also put in a big effort, that almost killed me. Perhaps one day I will finally learn that it is not a good idea to keep hitting my head against a brick wall.
After a nice stop at the trough, and a chance to refill (and for Peter to unload), it was back on the bikes for the final section. So far it had been pretty uneventful. Surely no surprises could still be in store for me?
My almighty efforts in the sprints were starting to take their toll as I laboured up the hill towards Wandin. Peter and Bob had pulled a 100 metres or so in front, leaving me to climb at my own (slower) pace. As I neared the top I noticed a woman walking a large German Shepherd along the path. Not being a dog fancier I had no plans to stop and pass the time of day, however as I passed her I heard her call out to me.
“Will you take me around Australia?”, she asked. Thinking I must have been hallucinating I slowed down and replied “Excuse me?” She then added that she had a couple of girl friends coming to Australia next week and needed someone to show them around the country. Although this was starting to sound interesting, she then added that they only had 9 days to see the country and she “thought that it might be good to see it by bicycle”.
I can understand what an impressive male specimen I must be, especially when wearing my yellow Warby Ghost Rider jersey and proudly sitting astride my $200 red rattler bike, but even I could not see how I could ride around Australia with three women on bicycles in 9 days. I reluctantly had to come to the conclusion that maybe she was a few cogs short of a full cluster, and said that I would “not be able to help her on this occasion”.
Fearing she might be about to set her dog on me in her great disappointment (you know what they say about a woman scorned), I tried to increase my pace and catch up to my companions. Fifteen minutes later we were all gathered around the cars at Mt Evelyn and I was able to share the experience with Peter and Bob. I think they were maybe a little chuffed that they had not been singled out for attention, but then again, I guess I AM MUCH YOUNGER than either of them.
As I have always said, you just never know what to expect on this trail.