It would be hard to overestimate the excitement we felt as we unpacked our bikes at Mt Evelyn. After all, here we were in the middle of a Melbourne Winter (and the coldest June for 20 years), with a blue sky from horizon to horizon. If you stood still in the sunshine you could even feel the slightest hint of warmth. Such a day can serve to recharge our enthusiasm for cycling and thus help us to get through the next succession of wet, cold rides.
The only downside on the conditions was the howling wind that was bending the trees almost to the ground. On the other hand, since the wind was blowing towards Warburton, we could be confident that the outward ride would be nice and fast. Just before we were due to head off we were joined by an ashen faced Bruno. He had been fighting the hurricane all the way from Woori Yallock. This in itself would not have been so bad, but apparently he had to ride some sections 4 or 5 times over because the wind kept picking him up and throwing him back several hundred metres at a time. He had finally dragged his way through by clawing his way along the rocks and hugging the ground. I found this quite encouraging, after all it is nice to learn that there are some disadvantages in only weighing about 30 kg.
When all our riders were gathered it was time to put up the spinnakers and let the wind propel us to Warburton. A short distance further along we were met by Little John, still valiently battling his way up the hill to Mt Evelyn. He seemed incredibly relieved to be able to turn his bike around and head downwind with us. At Wandin an even stranger sight greeted us. Gary and Johnny Magoo had been trying to ride the rest of the way but found they could make no progress against the wind. Poor Johhny had gripped on to a sturdy tree and was being blown horizontally like a Dutch flag. It was such fun to see these skinny guys finally getting a little of their own back.
Soon we were all heading at warp speed with the wind at our backs. It is not often that we are overtaken by wind blown rocks but it certainly was fun. I tried not to think about the return ride and hoped that, by late afternoon, the wind might have abated somewhat.
As we crossed the Woori Yallock bridge the wind had turned to be blowing from the side. We were in real danger of beingblown over the edge and into the creek so I firmly placed both my hands on the left hand handlebar and pulled backwards with all my might. Although I could feel the tyres skidding sideways across the timber, somehow we all managed to get safely to the other side.
We all stopped for a rest at Woori Yallock Station before tackling the final 15 km to Warburton. Even with the wind, it really was a gem of a day. A few minutes after leaving Woori we met up with Cheryl and Trish and a couple other members of the Petticoat Peloton. Cheryl turned to join us but the others continued on their way.
For me the only dark cloud on the horizon was a slowly deflating front tyre. I stopped to put a little more air in it and managed to get as far as Milgrove before stopping to fit a new tube. This prevented me from completing the final climb to Warburton, but did allow me to get my lunch order in early and thus avoid a long wait.
It was while we were enjoying our lunches that a tremendous miracle took place. The howling wind that had been with us from the start dramatically abated and we were blessed with comparitively calm conditions for the return ride. The only person that was not pleased with this turn of events was Lothar. He had ridden all the way from Emerald and had fought a head wind all the way to Woori Yallock. He had been looking forward to getting an easy ride back home, but now this was not to be. For the rest of us it was as if Christmas had come early.
I was also pleased to see that Bruno’s friend Heike had also come out for another ride. I had to warn her that she will need to be careful because riding with the Ghost Riders can become addictive. Although she has not done a lot of riding, she is not far off the pace and I am sure that she would make quick improvement.
After lunch we were able to settle into that nice gentle rhythm that accompanies a full tummy, a good peloton, a great trail and a blue sky. Everything went smoothly until Bowy Bowmaker forgot that he was wearing cleats and made a most undignified gravel kiss at Woori Yallock. I tried to sooth his embarrassment by telling him that “everyone falls off once after riding on cleats for the first time”. He loked a little sheepish and then admitted that this is now about the seventh time that he had fallen off. I suppose that some take a little longer than others to learn from the school of hard knocks.
With the wind now all but gone, the remainder of the ride was undertaken in perefect conditions. In the late afternoon sunshine the ever lengthening shadows created a dappled pattern of light as we rode through the trees. This is always my favourite time of day and the small remaining peloton cruised along at a comfortable speed to soak up every minute. After all, we didn’t know how long it would be before we got another day as good as this one.
Ride number 176 had been a beautiful day.