With the weather fluctuating widly between pouring rain and high 30s temperatures, it had been a hard call to pick the best day for our weekly ride. When the boffins at the Weather Bureau finally perdicted a fine day with an expected top of about 25C I decided that Wednesday would have to be the day. Unfortunately this meant that we would have to ride within John, who was apparently over in Perth as part of his Australia wide search for a new luxury car to replace his crumpled Jaguar.
While John was no doubt test driving some stretched Volvo limo up and down the West Coast I was unpacking my bike at Mt Evelyn. There was no sign of either Bob or Peter, but I did notice another likely looking guy unpacking his bike in the car park. I was not sure if he was there to ride with us or whether he was part of another group. Eventually he walked over to me and introduced himself as the legendary “Glenn Campbell”. After all those years of singing “By the Time I get to Phoenix” under the shower I must say it was rather a surprise to meet the great man himself. Although I had always pictured him to be a little taller than this guy, I nevertheless said that I enjoyed all his records, especially the “Wichita Linesman”.
He looked at me a little strangely, read the name on my yellow jersey, and asked me if I was about to ride the trial. I immediately informed him that I was a member of another legendary group – The “Warby Ghost Riders”. While I was talking to Glenn I was joined by Peter and Bob who were also both proudly wearing their new jerseys. I was also expecting to be joined by Mal W. from the Southern Vets, but so far he had not shown. If I had more confidence I would have asked Glenn to ride with us while entertaining us with a chorus of Ghost Riders In the Sky”, however we left him waiting there for the rest of his entourage while we headed off down the track.
Without John’s plaintive pleas for restraint we decided to try a faster pace and soon were coasting along at well over 30 kph. After 10 or so minutes we could hear an ominous rumbling coming up the trail behind us and we soon discovered that this was due to a rapidly closing group of leg shavers from the Eastern Vets. Obviously not knowing who they were up against they threatened to pass and leave us in their wake, however we decided to dig deeper and see what they were really made of.
It was not long before the cream rose to the surface and the three Ghost Riders had left the leg shavers languishing in our wake. Although it was pleasing to gain a temporary advantage we knew that they would not give up that easily. We would no doubt have to maintain a very high standard if we were to arrive at Warburton before them.
For the next 10 km we began to forget about our would-be rivals, as they fell further and further behind. When we arrived at the Launching Place Pub we decided to stop for a drink before pressing the button on the pedestrian crossing. It was at this point we witnessed a singular display of poor sportsmanship as the rival peloton came sweeping up the hill and rode straight across the road (through the red light), passing us with our drink bottles to our mouths and our feet decleated. This was NOT how honest riders are meant to perform.
With this extreme provocation we decided to utilise our superior knowledge of the trail and take the faster route down the highway to cut them off at the bridge. With legs pumping and chests heaving we managed to gain a short lead and entered the bitumen sprint course in the lead. At this point Peter cracked and decided to wind up the pace for the Intermediate sprint about 3 km before the line. My only hope was to try to follow his wheel and hope that my lungs would hold out.
The pace steadily increased to 37 kph and Peter showed no signs of slowing. I was still on his wheel and Bob was somewhere just behind, breathing down both of our necks. With the finish line only 100 metres or so in the lead I feared that I had nothing left for the final sprint and expected to finish in third (ie last) place. With my last ounce of energy I pulled up out of the saddle and managed to make up the leeway, but Peter was still maintaining his breakneck speed. Not surprisingly, Bob came flying up from behind and passed us both as if we were standing still. This must have temporarily distracted Peter enough for me to just get ahead of him on the the finish line. It had really been a fast section, but now I felt like I had been in a fight with Mike Tyson – all I could do was slow down and try to recover some semblance of sanity.
The final section of the trail to Warburton was completed at a more sensible rate, although by this time we were conscious that a new record for the peloton was in sight. When we pulled into the coffee shop 1 hour, 13 minutes and 35 seconds after leaving Mt Evelyn we knew that this was indeed a reason for a celebratory cream cake. And where were the famous Eastern Vets ? Nowhere in sight.
About five minutes after our arrival the group of (rather surprised) Vets finally pulled in. They looked a beaten bunch with sweat pouring from their faces and chests heaving. By this time we had enough time to appear quite settled and were able to look at our rivals as is we couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
It really had been good fun and it certainly made it feel as it we had earned our lunches. The weather was fine and sunny and, with so many cyclists at the coffee shop, there was much talk of chain rings, races and favourite crashes. After a lengthy lunch we decided to give our rivals a significant head start of about 10 minutes while we finished off our cream cakes.
The return ride was completed at a reduced pace, although the second sprint was hotly contested with Bob managing to beat me by the thickness of a tube. That guy really knows how to make a chap suffer. When I looked up at the end of the sprint Peter and Bob had established a 50 metre break and I started to realise that the last 20 km or so were about to seem more like 200 km.
Fortunately they did slow down and wait for me to catch up and we did stay together as far as the start of the final climb to Mt Evelyn. At that point I gave them permission to go ahead and let me finish with what little stamina I had left. As they rapidly disappeared up the hill I just put my head down and reminded myself how good it would be to finally reach my car.
When I rejoined my companions at the car park I noticed that they were gathered around Glenn Cambell, (perhaps enjoying a post ride sing song?) In fact they were studying the sad remains of Glenn’s bike. Apparently in his frantic efforts to keep ahead of the Warby Riders, his bike had started to self destruct, dropping vital components of the gear shifts along the trail. Proudly holding my $200 bike it felt good to join the group and pretend to feel sorry for his expensive looking custom built racing thoroughbred. “I guess not all bikes can cope with this trail”, I commented. “It takes a special breed of man and machine to do it justice”.