In Which we Lose the Plot


Regular Stars

Smoky – Dennis Dawson (also Director and Screenwriter)
Legs – Peter Warren
Cracker – Brendan Noone
JCL – John Ruigrok
Little John – John Dawson
Eggs – John Green
Garibaldi – Gary Hall
Roger Ramjet – Roger Bridson
Lex – Lothar Rockman
Cheryl the Sheila – Cheryl Leary
Hooters – John Seamons
Spanner – Warren Billson

Special Guest Star

Gavin Wright (Bicycle Victoria) as himself.


The full cast appear at Mt Evelyn, impeccably turned out in full dress uniforms and clean bikes. They then proceed in an orderly fashion along the trail, impressing the special guest with their discipline and riding style. All the while the sun shines down from a brilliant blue sky. Even Hooters and the Spanner surprise everyone by riding the full length of the trail and maintaining an average speed of at least 25 kph throughout the entire ride.

As we approach the Settlement Rd sprint area, the peloton remembers the very clear rules and stays closely grouped until passing the 100m line. Then the action starts and a fair and furious charge impresses the large mass of watching spectators.

At Warburton the coffee shop surprises everyone by having more than just a couple of stale cakes left over. When Dennis asks for a nice salad sandwich, the lady replies “No problem” and proceeds to whip up a gastronomic delight. We spend a pleasant 30 mins enjoying our coffee and cakes in the warm sunshine, before again heading back in tight formation.

The return sprint is well conducted, thanks to Spanner’s role at the head of the group. The special guest reporter is again impressed with our prowess and sportsmanlike behaviour. Hundreds of fans line the sides of the trail to wish us well as we pass and try to gain a glimpse of their heroes. None of us suffer any punctures. Crasher Lewis completes a crash free ride for once in his life. Hooters keeps his mouth closed.

Back at Mt Evelyn, everyone agrees that it had been a perfect ride. Hooters and the Spanner promise that they will be starting at Mt Evelyn every week from now on. Gavin says that he has never seen a group as impressive as the Ghost Riders. A true fairy tale ending.

What a magnificent plot….. Now for the actual story.


I pulled up at Mt Evelyn under a completely overcast sky in temperatures that would have probably been more appropriate for a visit to Mawson Base than a ride along the Warby Trail. As I looked around for other Ghost Riders I soon discovered that I was the only one present. A glance at my watch showed that there was still a couple of minutes to go before the scheduled starting time.

I had already played out this ride over in my mind many times. If all went according to my plan I had no doubt that this could become our finest hour, the day when we finally break through from relative obscurity to become national cycling icons. All I needed the other members to do was to demonstrate the fruits of my three years of careful training and instruction. But where were they?

At about 1 pm Little John finally arrived and announced that he had seen JCL driving in the ‘other direction’. Although Peter’s van was already in the car park, there was still no sign of the man himself. When Eggs finally arrived with our special guest from Bicycle Victoria I had to explain that we normally had more than three riders and that last week “it had been sunny”. My nose then started to run uncontrollably, forcing me to spread a copious layer of mucous over my left glove. (I hoped it would not show on the photos).

My spirits lifted a little by about 1.10 when we were finally joined by Garibaldi, Ramjet, Cracker and Lex. When Crasher arrived I could finally see the beginning of a peloton, although I was worried that he might find yet another way to fall off his bike and bring ridicule on the group. Even Hooters and the Spanner turned up to greet our visiting VIP. “Finally you are going to do a real ride”, I commented. “Not me”, was the reply,”we’re going to drive to Launching Place and start from there”. My spirits wilted again. Gavin shook his head in disbelief.

Just as we were finally ready to move off, JCL came careering through the car park, pulling a large, out of control, trailer behind his car. With mud and stones flying he skidded to a stop and said we could start without him. We did.

“Now Guys, Form A Peloton”, I instructed, thinking that my voice would carry more authority if I spoke in capital letters. It didn’t. We were soon spread out over about 300m. JCL caught up with the group, and then rapidly bolted into the distance. “Slow Down”, I yelled vainly. He didn’t hear me. It also started to rain and the temperature dropped to about 8C. I rode through a huge pile of horse manure and managed to spray it all up the back of my jersey. So far, so good I thought, at least I haven’t had a puncture

And so it continued all the way to Woori Yallock – where it rapidly got worse. Hooters and the Spanner joined the peloton. I hoped that Hooters would behave himself. He didn’t. “Why are we going so fast?” he yelled into Gavin’s ear (before we had even started). I cringed and started to wonder just what Gavin would write about us in his article.

Cheryl also arrived at about this time, but then spent the next ten minutes in her car applying make up and arranging her hair. At least this gave an opportunity for a photo shoot. I gave my nose another quick couple of wipes on the back of my glove and tried to manouvre to the front of the group. Somehow Hooters (although he had just arrived) managed to get in the front of every picture. Cheryl finally finished her beauty treatment, jumped on her bike and took off. “Slow Down”, I yelled, “We’re Forming a Peloton”. In fact we did finally form that peloton – it was about 1.5 km long.

My biggest hopes now for a good impression rested with a well organised sprint. With this in mind I assembled the entire group at the Launching Place traffic lights and clearly reminded everyone of the rules. “NO ONE IS TO START SPRINTING UNTIL THE 100M MARK” (by this time my frustration was causing me to speak entirely in upper case). A few nodded in response.

We started up the Warburton Highway. To my horror a few started bolting the moment we crossed the small bridge, leaving the group hopelessly in tatters. At the start of Settlement Rd “Legs” Warren (our former Vice President) lost all control and charged. I looked back and saw a scene of absolute disorder – riders were strewn all over the road. This was not in the script at all.

At that point complete panic set in with riders pedalling frantically in all directions. There was no alternative other than to enforce mass disqualifications, resulting in the prize finally being awarded to Little John. Now rapidly losing interest in trying to ever make something of a team out of the Ghost Riders, my mind started to turn to caffeine. Surely the coffee shop would realise that Thursday afternoon always meant the mass influx of elite athletes and would have plenty of food in stock, waiting for our arrival.

I pulled into our familiar coffee shop ahead of the rest of the riders (now spread all the way back to Millgrove) and eagerly strode inside. “Any sandwiches?”,I asked. “Not a chance”, the reply. “Any pies or sausage rolls?”, “Forget it”, “What have you got then ?”, “You can have anything you like as long is it’s a custard tart”, was the blunt response.

A few minutes later I was settled down with my coffee and custard tart, thankful for the fact that the temperature had now risen to 9 C. It was somewhat unfortunate that I soon managed to drop half of my custard tart on the ground. I gave my nose another wipe and pretended it did not matter.

At this point we took a few more pictures and I tried to convince Gavin that we were usually much better behaved than this. He replied that he just wanted to get home as soon as possible. I knew that the next chance to make an impression would be by showing our VIP guest the mysteries of El Capitan. Soon after leaving Warburton we pulled off the trail, looked at the giant slope and explained the secret initiation ceremony to Gavin. For some reason Roger Ramjet took off at this point and we never saw him again for the remainder of the afternoon.

After a lot of prompting from us, Gavin took off up the slope and was soon sprawling over in the mud. We offered to help clean off the manure from his panniers and bandage his wounds, but by this time he just shouted at us to “KEEP AWAY” from him. He grabbed at the bent remains of his bike, vainly tried to straighten his ruined seat, and then pedalled off. The temperature dropped back to 7 C.

By this time we only had one last card to play – the reverse sprint. I explained that Spanner would act as the pace setter to lead us to the start of the sprint. Anyone who passed him prematurely would be disqualified. In order to ensure a fair race I even waited at the start of Settlement Rd for the others to catch up. They caught up all right, flew past me AND Spanner and again bolted off, completely out of control. I could only look on in dismay.

After that debacle I began to lose all interest in the ride. I decided to just sit back and enjoy the last few kilometres back to the car. At long last the peloton started to form a little more tightly. We even passed long lines of young fans who stood back to let us pass through. Many fans held up their hands so we could give them “high 5s” as we passed. My spirits finally started to lift. Maybe the ride was not a total failure after all.

I even started to hear the roar of more distant crowds, presumably gathered to welcome us back to Woori Yallock. Unfortunately it turned out to be the hiss of escaping air from a puncture in my front tyre. The only person who was excited at this latest development was Legs Warren, who relished the thought of selling me yet another spare tube. As I finished pumping up the tyre I somehow managed to bend the shaft of my trusty pump through a right angle. Everyone laughed. I suppose I should have been glad that I was able to lift everyone’s spirits.

The final few kilometres up to the Mt Evelyn car park were completed in rapidly approaching darkness. With the shortest day of the year almost upon us it is amazing how much more important it is to keep an eye on the clock. Finally back at the cars, Gavin seemed particularly pleased to be able to bid farewell to us, but did assure me that we were only the “second worst group he had ridden with”.

P.S. Happy Birthday to Spanner Billson.