It certainly caught me by surprise. Just as we were making good progress riding up the steady hill to Wandin, Brendan slammed on his brakes, almost causing me to cascade into his rear wheel. At first I was just about to let fly with a torrent of abuse at his erratic cycling behaviour, but forgave him when I saw the reason for his unexpected maneuver.
There in front of us was a large brown tortoise, slowing making its way across the trail. The last time I had seen anything moving so slowly on the Warburton Trail was when I last rode with Hooters. We were mystified as to where it might have come from, but we were grateful for the excuse to stop for a few moments to watch it pass by. For some reason Brendan picked up the wandering reptile and placed it safely in the grass on the side of the path. I tried to tell him that the tortoise had taken all afternoon to get as far across as it had, now he had put it right back at the start again. So much for compassion!
Up till that point the ride had gone remarkably well. Seeing it was our penultimate Thursday ride for 2006 I had been hoping for a big peloton and I wasn’t disappointed. It was also a relief to find that the weather was mild and just about ideal for cycling. At the start of the ride I took the opportunity of looking around at all the other yellow shirted cyclists and took some pride at how far we had come in the past 4 years. With another year drawing to a close it was a great feeling to think back on all the adventures we had shared together in the past 12 months and on the new friendships we had made.
The initial pace was brisk, but everybody seemed comfortable keeping up so I guess that means that we must have made some improvement during the past year. By the time the peloton reached Milgrove we had approximately 18 riders, although not all decided to complete the extra section up top Warburton and back. For some, the smell of fresh coffee and creams cakes was just too seductive. They chose to head straight for the Bakery and to get in some early input of sugar and cafeine. The rest upped the pace and set off up the incline. This is becoming the new sprint section and usually succeeds in getting our ageing hearts pumping freely.
Twenty minutes later we were all gathered around the Bakery and enjoying the atmosphere. There is no doubt that a ride without a cup of coffee would be like Christmas without carols. I was rather surprised to see that Hooters had turned up at the coffee shop, after all it is many months since he has found the time to join his friends for a ride. True to form, however, he didn’t actually ride – rather he just drove up in his car with some story about “having to get home early” (presumably for a long rest).
As we bagan the return ride I was alarmed to see Bruno and Crasher at the front of the peloton. Since these are probably the two least disciplined riders in the club, our chances of an orderly ride seemed to have disintegrated. I was therefore amazed to find that, rather than bolt into the distance, they were content to siy on 25 kph and allow the group to stay together. For kilometre after kilometre onlookers were blessed with the sight of almost 20 riders, most in uniform, riding in a precision formation along the trail. In fact it was not until after Launching Place that the discipline finally flew out the window with a couple of riders increasing the pace and fragmenting the group. Nevertheless, it had still been one of the best attempts at sustained pelotonic cohesion (otherwise known as SPC) that we had ever been able to achieve.
With the afternoon temperature finally starting to rise we stopped at the water trough for a short water fight before mounting up for the final section back to Mt Evelyn. Apart from the unfortunate incident of the tortoise, the remainder of the ride went without incident.
Next week is our final Thursday ride for 2006 and our chance to decorate the bikes and spread some smiles along the trail. Let’s make it a ride to remember.