With the temperature tipped to rocket to near 40C on the trail, I suspected that this was always going to be a tough ride. If ever I could be tempted to take the “Seamons Approach” and start from Launching Place, this could certainly be the day. On the other hand I know that, as President, I have a crucial role in the peloton. There was also the prospect of a good sized turnout for our last Summer ride of the season.
At the last minute I decided to drive to Mt Evelyn to see who else had turned up. I was pleased to see that Little John was already there, unloading his bike. “It’s pretty hot”, I stated the bleeding obvious. “What do you think about starting at Wandin?” I tentatively suggested. “No way”, John replied, “I want a real ride”. This placed me on the horns of a dilemma.
Thinking quickly I made some sort of half baked excuse as to why I had to drive down to Wandin. At the same time I was trying to suppress my feelings of guilt at leaving Little John to face the burning trail alone. As I drove off (with the air conditioning on HIGH), my conscience was relieved slightly when I saw Gary and Lex arrive to keep John company.
After unpacking at Wandin I had a few minutes to rest before the peloton arrived. By this time it had been increased in size by the presence of Cracker Noone. I tried to blend into the group and pretend that I had been there from the start. I noticed that old Bob was missing yet again – his third absence in a row. Could this be because he is simply afraid to confront our latest new recruits? Probably.
The pace increased to about 30 kph for most of the way to Woori Yallock. At least when you are moving, you do not feel quite so hot. It’s only when you stop that the sweat really starts to flow. By Woori Yallock we had been joined by JLC and Hooters. Seven riders and counting. Still no sign of Peter or Bob. Mal had also promised to attend but we were used to his broken promises and I was not surprised to see yet another non attendance on his behalf.
The Settlement Road sprint was another hot affair (about 35C in fact). Although I had not planned to contest the event, I had a rush of testosterone and managed to hold on for a win. As I looked back I noticed that only a couple of riders had been silly enough to join in. This left me panting and hot for the remainder of the ride to Warburton.
After a brisk final few km we pulled up at the coffee shop. Peter had finally joined in the peloton, but the sweat dripping liberally off his chin indicated that he had worked hard to catch up. We decided to enjoy our coffee in the comparative cool of the inside dining room. It was a unanimous choice of iced coffees for refreshment. After the past few weeks, I have given up on the chance of a sandwich and ordered a cake instead.
With eight hot, sweaty (and probably very smelly) cyclists sitting in the dining room I was not surprised that no-one else dared enter during the entire time that we were there. Just as we were about to leave we were exposed to a rather shocking episode. A nearly naked cyclist pulled up outside and waved to us. Wearing little more than a big smile and a pair of sneakers, I had not recognised Tom without his clothes on.
When he joined us inside he said that Mal was also somewhere back on the trail, but that the “poor little fellow” had not been able to keep up with him. We had all seen numerous examples of Mal destroying the peloton through his lack of restraint, it was a pleasant surprise to see the tables turned for a change. This time it was Mal languishing in the sag wagon.
By the time Mal finally arrived he looked like a spent force. I asked him if had enjoyed riding with Tom. “Who’s Tom?”, he asked. I pointed to the naked guy in the coffee shop. “I thought that was Brendan”, Mal replied. “No wonder he never answered me when I spoke”.
We had finally achieved the elusive Decoloton of ten elite riders. (Or more accurately 9 elite riders plus John). The return ride was undertaken at a more relaxed pace, although Little informed us that the temperature had now dropped to only 35C. I was grateful that I only had to make it back to Wandin. Lex was excited that he still had another 100 or so km to ride (on top of the 120km or so that he had already ridden). One day I think I will murder that guy.
I might not be a marathon rider, but I can sprint over short distances (about 30 metres or so) pretty well. Or so I thought until some clown passed me over the finish line on the return sprint. Perhaps there some things that Lex can’t do, but riding isn’t one of them.
After parting with some riders at Woori Yallock the reduced group continued on its way. Was it just because of the heat or were there really dancing elephants on the trail up ahead? And why was my tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth? Did I just imagine the thousands of enthusiastic onlookers lining the trail and urging me on?
Somehow I kept going to the welcome water trough where I rapidly refilled my bladder and covered myself with water. Fortunately that gave me enough of a boost to complete the journey back to Wandin. My car was a welcome sight and I was especially grateful to be able to relax in the air conditioning on the drive home.
Now, if we could only get ALL our riders to turn up on the same day, we could achieve up to 14 or 15 riders in the group. Even better if they were all wearing the famous yellow jersey.