In Which we celebrate the end of Winter

There are indeed rare times where Freedom is so much more than just another word in the dictionary. As I pedalled up the hill from Wandin to Mt Evelyn under a completely cloudless sky I could honestly say that there was absolutely nothing that I would rather be doing. After enduring another cold winter on the trail it was so exhilerating to see the clear evidence of the return of springtime. All around me the bush was emerging from its winter doldrums and you could palpably feel the promise of the new life force that the warmer weather inevitably brings.

I had decided to start a little earlier than usual and give myself time to ride back to Mt Evelyn and then head down towards Lilydale before turning back to meet the rest of the peloton at the usual meeting place. About halfway down to Lilydale I was overtaken by Lex and JCL who had ridden all the way across from Emerald. We all turned back towards Mt Evelyn where we were joined by Little John and Cracker. Although we waited for Crasher Lewis it became obvious that he he must have suffered yet another cycling mishap and would not be able to join us. Either that or he was in front of his computer in some Internet chat room typing “I am 22 years old and an elite sportsman with a National Title…..” As for the rest of us, we had better things to do with our Thursday afternoon, so we prepared to head off.

It was about this time that I discovered that my front tyre had slowly deflated. Lex discovered a thumb tack deeply entrenched in the tyre. This was the first time that any of my punctures had actually been caused by a nail. Ten minutes later we were finally underway and working hard to make up for lost time. We were soon joined by Chris and Trish, who have both become regular members of our midweek peloton. Not content to be just hangers at the back of the group these two like to really push the pace and it was therefore not surprising that, by the time we reached Woori Yallock we had made up most of the lost time.

Spanner and Big Al had obviously ridden on ahead and so we put the pedal to the metal and flew off again in pursuit. I had been contacted earlier in the week by a web site reader who indicated that he would like to meet us at Launching Place so we waited (and waited and waited) for him to appear without success. I guess it was another case of a “no show”. I do wish people would at least give a message, rather than just not turn up. This can waste everyone’s time and is very frustrating. We welcome guests but just ask that they keep their commitments.

At Settlement Rd we had a very organised sprint, with the bunch holding tightly together until the official start. Then it was on for young and old (mostly old). I almost thought that I had a chance but Lothar is just getting too strong in the final charge and held on to take to the points. I suppose anyone who rides 500km a week must show some improvement. Now I have to figure some new changes to the rules to swing the pendulum back in my favour…..

To our surprise we did not catch Spanner and Big Al until the Warburton coffee shop where they were already enjoying their afternoon coffees. I was even more surprised to find Hooters and Garibaldi also enjoying the afternoon sunshine. Both of these riders had previously indicated that they would not be available for this ride. We thus reached our final peloton size of 11 riders.

I suspect the shop is finally learning to cater for us each Thursday afternoon, with a few pies still left in the warmer. It was fantastic to be able to rest in the warmth and enjoy a laugh and chat. Since this was to be our last winter ride for 2005 I suspect that everyone was thrilled with the prospect of finally losing their dripping noses and frozen fingers.

The return ride was also ridden at a respectable pace and I was thrilled to see the women join in the sprint. In fact Chris was only narrowly beaten into fourth place. Unfortunately some old German guy again narrowly took the points (by the thickness of a tyre).

It is also pleasing to see the steady improvement in Alan’s stamina. Although he only been riding with uis for a few weeks, he is having less difficulty keeping the pace. He even informed us that he has just bought a Cannondale bike. As everyone knows that the cycling world is divided into two groups (those that ride Cannondales and those that wish they could ) it was good to see which group Alan wished to allign himself with.

At Woori Yallock several riders peeled off to ride back to Emerald, leaving only Chris, Little John and myself to continue on. It was such a pleasant afternoon that we were content to roll down the trail at a leisurely pace. This time of the day is always special. With the sun dropping low in the sky and a sense of stillness settling through the valley it feels as if Mother Nature is getting ready to tuck her children into bed.

What a perfect way to finish our riding winter. Now roll on springtime.