In Which we Meet the Kryptonite Kid

Yesterday as I looked out my office window at the dark, low clouds and the torrential rain I knew that we had made the right decision when we postponed the weekly ride to today. With the skies now (mostly) clear it looked as if we were to enjoy another successful midweek ride. The other advantage of riding on a Wednesday is that we often get to cross paths with the riders from the Eastern Vets. Although not up to the high standards of the Ghost Riders, they nevertheless do add a little extra colour to the ride.

This morning when I opened the office I was greeted with the rather unwelcome discovery that the entire district’s telephone services had been put out of action by some nitwit with an oversize excavator. With no phone, Internet, fax, mobile or EFTPOS it was not shaping up to a day that I really wanted to endure in the office. The prospect of just getting out on the bike again with my friends seemed more attractive than ever. I had also received a message from Peter informing me that another prospective member would be joining us for a tryout on today’s ride.

The starting peloton was a little small, consisting only of Bob, Johnny come lately and myself. Peter had promised to join us a little later and I had not heard from Cheryl or Little John. After the recent heavy rain the trail was a little slippery but not as bad as I had feared. The sections that had been recently graded had drained quite well and our progress was quite rapid.

When we reached Woori Yallock we found Hooters waiting with a guilty look on his face. After his disgraceful effort last week he had promised to try a little harder this week. We soon let him know that none of us could afford to get back to Mt Evelyn in the dark again. It was also at Woori Yallock that we met our newest candidate for the Ghost Riders. Bearing the unlikely name of “Lothar”, a wild thatch of white hair and a beaming smile, he looked a likely enough fellow, but we knew that we have to wait to see how he performed on the trail before we could really judge his potential.

The only other person I had heard of with a similar name was Superman’s arch enemy Lex Luther, so I immediately christened our new companion with the name LEX. It seemed to fit well and he started of rapidly with a strong riding style. It did not take long for him to leave Hooters struggling in his wake – not bad for a guy on his first ride!

We also picked up another riding companion at this point. Garry is a member of the Eastern Vets who had come looking for his racing mates,but since they were nowhere to be seen, he decided to ride with us instead. Our peloton had swelled to six riders and, when Spanner Billson joined us at Launching Place, reached seven. At this rate it seems only a matter of time before we crack the elusive ten on a midweek ride.

The outward sprint was again hotly contested with an ever growing number of contestants. Unfortunately I made the mistake of breaking too early and ran out of puff about 50m before the line, allowing Bob to flash past. As we slowed for the final section to Warburton I was pleased to see that Lex was still well within touch of the group (no sign of Hooters though).

A small mishap occured on the outskirts of Warburton that was to have unfortunate consequences for Bob’s bike. While we were speeding up the bitumen path a large branch jumped onto the path in front of me. Having no alternative than to ride over it, I observed that the branch then flew into the air – and straight into the spokes of Bob’s rear wheel. Closer inspection revealed a bent spoke and a buckled wheel. “I’ve had these wheels for 40 years”, Bob lamented, as he examined the carnage.

After the menace of the wasps last week I was relieved to see that the recent cold weather had seemed to chase them all into hibernation. We were able to enjoy our food and conversation in peace. Well we did had peace until Legs rode into our midst. He had started late and been chasing us all the way to Warburton. The peloton thus reached eight.

On the way back we broke the news to Lex that all new riders are expected to climb El Capitan. To our surprise he accepted the challenge and managed to climb to about 3 metres short of the sign, before falling off his bike – a very respectable result. This guy could fit right in.

The return sprint was again won by Bob, in spite of his wobbly wheel. After dropping Warren, Garry, John (Hooters) and Lex, the remaining riders decided to increase the pace. After our very late finish of last week we decided to see how much time we could save this week. I think we all managed to get back to Mt Evelyn before 4.45 pm. This was a full 3/4 of an hour faster than last week so we had reason to feel pleased with ourselves.

With the forecast of a fine day for our next official monthly club ride this Saturday, I think we are all looking forward to a memorable day. Peter took the remains of Bob’s rear wheel back to his shop to see if he could make something useful out of it (probably stick it up on his roof as a TV antenna to pick up SBS for the forthcoming World Championship telecasts)