Cruising down the long hill from Mt Evelyn, it was impossible not to feel exhilerated. After all, it was Thursday afternoon and I was away from work and on my bike once again, but there was more to it than that. Although we have had many sunny days, and also many days when there was no wind, even more days when it was not raining or freezing, there had been no days that I could remember that had given us better conditions that those we faced today.
With the sky blue from horizon to horizon it just could not help but lift everyone’s spirits. Unlike last week when the mercury topped 36C, this week the weather wallas had given us a top temperature in the low 20s. At this temperature it is warm in the sun, but refreshingly cool in the shade of the trees. No person in their right mind could miss out on a bike ride on a day like this.
Speaking of people in their right mind, it was disappointing to see that old Crasher Lewis was again absent from the peloton. We were aware that he was rapidly closing in on the “BIG SIX ZERO”, but did not realise that premature senility could attack someone with such immediate effects. We expected that his deterioration would have occured over a much longer period (say at least 12 months).
Even without Crasher it was encouraging to see that so many riders had turned out. Also exciting was the fact that today signaled the official end of Garibaldi’s probationary period with the club. After 4 rides he was now qualified to join us as our latest jerseyed member. A pity that old Peter Warren had forgotten to bring Garibaldi’s new jersey along. At least the rest of the riders looked good in their matching uniforms as they sped along the trail.
The Settlement Rd sprint saw a disgraceful example of bad sportsmanship when Peter took the easy route up the highway and thereby ensured that he was already at the end of the main straight at the same time as the rest of us were just entering it. This threw the peloton into confusion with Mal immediately doing a bolter, hotly pursued by a couple of others. When I looked up and saw the finish line at least a kilometre away I knew that this was not going to be my day and contented myself with a (very) minor placing.
As we pulled into the coffee shop the arrival of Spanner Billson had seen the peloton grow to 10 riders. It was no wonder the heads of the townsfolk turn to watch as we pass through. I guess when you live in Warburton this is probably the highlight of the week. There are even reliable reports that the Warburton East Primary School is planning to bus down both of its students to Warburton next week to watch us pass by.
Following such a perfect outward ride, and my admonishment of last week, I was confident that the Coffee Shop would finally be able to offer me something resembling a sandwich. Taking off my helmet and flashing my best smile I walked to the counter. “Any chance of a nice sandwich”, I asked. “Only if you want it filled with sawdust and snail pellets”, was the reply.
A few minutes later I was settled outside, looking at my custard tart and coffee, once again lamenting the sandwich that got away. At least the weather was perfect, even if my lunch wasn’t. Autumn is a fantastic time of the year and no-one seemed in a hurry to leave. If you tried to tell me there was a better way to spend a Thursday afternoon, I could not believe you.
Eventually the relentless passage of time dictated that we really had to leave, but I made sure that we took the longer route back by riding up through the far end of town to the Donna Buang turnoff. As we passed by, the banjos went silent and jugs were put down for a few moments. A couple of locals even stopped their bare knuckle fight long enough to give us a wave as we passed. Warburton is certainly a unique place.
The return ride was undertaken at a more leisurely pace, and the more organised Settlement Sprint saw me gain second place behind Mal. I was pleased to see that he was blowing harder than me at the end however.
As I rode on I started to have another dream. One day I would like to run a ride where all the riders have the same weight. All we would have to do is weigh each rider (plus their bike) and then weight handicap all the riders so that their total weight was equal to the heaviest rider/bike combination. It would be interesting to see then how the JLCs and Doswells cope with an extra 6 or 7 house bricks taped to their bikes. Then we would really see who the strongest riders were.
On the final climb back up to Mt Evelyn I was pleased to see that young Ben (our 18 year old recruit) was starting to tire and that I was able to overtake him before the summit. I think I might have also overtaken a 90 year old with a walking frame, but it was a close finish.
If only we could experience weather like this for our forthcoming Wangaratta ride, then we could all die happy.