Gary’s e-mail was not exactly encouraging. “It’s been pouring down here all morning and now it’s just started to hail”. With little more than an hour to go before the start of the ride, this was not the sort of weather news I had been hoping for. On the other hand I had been looking forward to getting out on the bike and did not want to be robbed of yet another ride. “Let’s give it a go anyway” I replied, hoping that I would not (yet again) live to regret one of my decisions.
To be on the safe side I decided to start at Wandin and ride back to Mt Evelyn. At least that way, if the weather really stayed bad, I would be back in the warmth of the car before most of the others. I was soon joined by Gary, who had decked himself out with more layers than I had ever seen Cheryl wear. With head warmers, leg warmers, parkas and balaclava, he looked more like Sherpa Tenzing than a Ghost Rider. He went on to explain that he had to protect himself from the horrific hail. A few moments later Lex and Johnny Magoo rode up, having ridden all the way from Emerald through the meteorological maelstrom. I was the only one still dry.
We all headed off to Mt Evelyn, but before we had gone 100m I was viciously attacked by a demented magpie. Surely not Eddy number Two I wondered, waving my hands over my head and shouting madly in a vain attempt to preserve life and limb. Since I had not been expecting this attack it came as somewhat of a shock, but fortunately we all got by with minimal loss of blood, but with significant loss of dignity.
At the car park we were met by Little John and Peter. The major surprise was when Crasher himself turned up. It is the first time in the history of the Ghost Riders that he had ridden in anything less than perfect weather. Maybe we are finally goading him into becoming more than just another weckweational wider after all.
I was also surprised to see another new rider waiting to join the peloton. He introduced himself as Paul Clarke and told us that he had been a regular reader of the web site for some time and now just wanted to be a part of our action. When I had a close look at him I had to admit that he was the skinniest guy I had seen for a long time. Even Johnny Magoo looked like Humphrey B Bear by comparison. He even looked like a genuine cyclist, fully decked out in lycra. Man, if looks could climb, this fellow looked like he could burn up Donna Buang with one leg tied behind his back. With a body like that there is only one name we could give him – and so “Tubby Clarke” was born.
Of course Hooters had been studying weather patterns developing near Cape Otway and had already rung to say he would staying home by the fire. With spanner still recovering from his recent surgery it looked like our peloton would be smaller than the past few weeks. I guess if we can’t have quantity, at least we could have quality and so we decided to set a good pace on the outward ride.
Although the weather had threatened so much, in fact it hadn’t turned out so bad. We even had brief bursts of sunshine. The biggest hazard to safe riding were the numerous fallen trees and branches that had to be regularly dodged along the way. Tubby Clarke soon joined in well and took the chance to get to meet most of our riders along the way.
With no riders waiting at Woori Yallock the pace stayed on all the way to Launching Place. Once on the back roads, Johnny Magoo lifted the pace early. It was obviously going to be a long sprint today. Sitting just under the magic 30 kph for about 2 km, the bunch approached the final section. Bob burst from the blocks, followed closely by Lex. Johnny Magoo was finally starting to tire and I think we both crossed the line together to take out equal third place, with Peter close behind.
We finally caught up with Big Al at Milgrove and rode the rest of the way up to Warburton at a more sedate speed. At the coffee shop we elected to eat inside and spent an enjoyable 35 minutes getting to know Tubby Clarke, drinking coffee and watching the weather deteriorate outside. When the time came for us to leave the skies had again chosen to open and for the first 15 minutes or so we rode in steady rain. It looked as if the rain had now set in for the duration of the ride.
AS is often the case, the pace was much slower on the return ride and, although I crossed the sprint line first, I am not convinced that the others were really trying. It was also about this time that the air was rent with the cry that is every cyclists’ worst nightmare. “Flat tyre, flat tyre”. Fortunately it was not me that was shouting, it was Lex who had just experienced his first flat tyre.
The peloton all pulled up to watch Lex repair his tyre and offer valuable advice and suggestions. Lex had come prepared with a new tube and pump, recently purchased from Peter’s shop and proceeded with the repair. When the time came to pump it up again, several minutes of frantic pumping produced no inflationary result at all. We offered more advice. “Obviously one of Peter’s specials”, “For the price you paid you could have got a NEW tube”, “Peter has the only tubes that come with preinstalled punctures” and so on.
When it became obvious that we were getting nowhere, the “new” tube was removed and replaced with yet another “new” tube. Another five minutes of frantic pumping with the same result – NOTHING. This was starting to get spooky. Was this some sort of Bicycle Bermuda Triangle? Peter produced one of his little cylinders of compressed gas. “Try this”, he suggested. I think Little John thought Peter was offering him oxygen to assist his breathing, but when it was finally attached to Lex’s tube, it also failed to inflate the tyre.
This was rapidly starting to get ridiculous, as a variety of pumps, tubes and oxygen cylinders were passed back and forth. I suspected that all Avanti bikes might suffer the same problem, but bit my tongue and said nothing (well not quite nothing). Finally, after trying every possible permutation and combination of tube, pump and pumper we eventually managed to get the tyre repaired and get back underway again.
While all this was going on the sky had been undergoing its own miraculous transformation. Instead of the dark clouds we now had bright sunshine and clear blue skies. It was a pleasure to get back on the bikes and ride at a leisurely pace with the warm sunshine drying our mud streaked backs.
I think it was only when we got back to Wandin that Bob had a good look at his bike. His precious Bismark was caked in a thick layer of mud and horse manure, making it look more like a relic unearthed from Pompei than his beloved 1932 Fotheringill Special. He kept shaking his head and lamenting his decision to ride on a wet track. It was funny how his protests were all forgotten when we were passed by some young gun who flashed through with his head down and bum up. Crasher lept on his bike and headed off in pursuit, his testosterone pumping like a bull moose on steroids.
Who won the subsequent race up to Mt Evelyn? I forget.