In Which The Solstice Slays the Peloton

I don’t know the reason, but it seems that ever since I returned from China I have not stopped running. Not running literally, but just frantically trying to keep up with all the jobs that seem to mount up at the beginning of each day. Perhaps it’s really that suddenly my life has got a lost busier, or maybe it’s really due to that age old saying that “time goes faster the older you get”. If that’s really the case it would appear that the length of the day has somehow reduced to something about 10 hours duration.

The Winter solstice marks an important date in the annual cycling calendar. We all know that once that date has passed then each day must surely be a little longer than the day before, each transit of the sun across the winter sky must be a little higher in the sky. With that thought in mind it gives us promise of the springtime that awaits only a couple of months away. With thoughts of the warm spring sunshine and a nose no longer awash with the incessant dripping of winter passing thorugh my mind I headed off to Mt Evelyn in reasonably high spirits.

Earlier that morning I had received a call from a potential new rider who introduced himself as “Bob”. I guess that would make him “3 Bob” if he actually turned up like he promised to do. The new Bob explained that he was sixty years old and had been off the bike for some time. Fearing that he would probably be another weekend wobbler I persuaded him that it would be wise to start at Woori Yallock and that would make his first ride a little easier for him to keep up with the rest of us.

I decided to start at Wandin and ride back up the hill to Mt Evelyn but I was a little disappointed to find that Gary was the only one waiting there. By the time we were scheduled to start a couple of others had arrived but it was painfully obvious that the prevailing single digit temperature had set riders back to hide under their eiderdown doonas. We would not be have a big peloton on the shortest day of the year.

Fortunately, although it was cold, it was not quite freezing and the wind was not always in our faces. The small group made good progress to Woori Yallock where I found Little John and Glenda already waiting with the mysterious 3Bob. Rather than look like a weakend wobbler the new rider looked every inch a real rider (or should I say “weal wider”?), decked out in professional looking gear and looking ready for action.

We waited awhile while Heather battled to assemble her bike while the rest of us looked on impatiently. I was reminded that it is good to let inexperienced riders learn these essential skills for themselves and that by standing by and watching her battle to get the rear wheel to slot into the frame, we were really doing her a great favour.

After 10 minutes or so, Heather had finally managed to get the errant pieces into something resembling a bicycle and we were underway. The peloton had now increased in size to about ten or eleven riders. Not so long ago we would have regarded this as a big group, but compared to the 25 or so riders we have been getting lately, it was not so impressive.

We moved along at a moderate speed under the pretence that we were allowing 3Bob to keep up with us, but in fact he looked like he was getting impatient with our antedeluvian rate of progress. As soon as we reached Milgrove the pace finally increased for the bolt up the hill to Warburton. This is always a good opportunity to get the heart beating and it was fun to crank up the speed a little and dodge around the succession of dog walkers and elderly citizens that frequent this section of the trail. 3 Bob showed his skill by sitting right on the peloton all the way to the top. This was obviously NOT his first time on a bike.

Back at Milgrove it was time to grab some hot food and a coffee and swap a few stories before the ride back to Woori Yallock. With the sun setting soon after 5 pm we did not have too much time to loiter but it is getting increasingly harder to get everyone moving after lunch. I may need to invest in a giant hooter.

The return ride was completed without mishap and even with the occasional assistance of a friendly tail wind. Our new riding friend told me that he enjoyed the ride and that he was “relieved he was able to keep up with us”. I suspected that in a couple of weeks it will be us that will be struggling to keep up with him.

Arriving back at Wandin at about 4.15 pm I had escaped the rapid onset of hypothermia and premature sunset (but only just). The thermometer in the car told me that the outside temperature was only 9C. No wonder my nose didn’t stop running. (How many sleeps left until springtime now?)