The experts told us that Wednesday was one of the coldest days on record for Victoria, with widespread snow and hail. They also told us that Thursday would not be much better. It was therefore to be expected that all the weaker members of the peloton (ie Hooters, Spanner and Crasher) would find ample excuses to stay home and play on the Internet instead of improving their performances on the trail.
I had previously decided to start at Wandin and then ride back to Mt Evelyn for the 1pm start. That way, if we were snowed in during the ride, I would not have to carry my bike back so far to my waiting car. When I arrived at Wandin to put my plan into action I found that Peter had also made the same choice. The two of us headed back towards Mt Evelyn, arriving about 15 mins early. This gave us enough time to ride back up to rotunda to keep our legs from freezing.
We took a few moments to look at the stream of elderly ladies climbing the stairs to the coffee shop. Their wide eyes indicated that they had never seen legs like Peter’s before. Then it was back to Mt Evelyn to see which other riders would turn out for the ride. After all the hype the afternoon had turned out not too bad. Although it was certainly cold, it wasn’t raining and there were actually breaks of sunshine at regular intervals.
At Mt Evelyn we were soon joined by Cracker Noone and Ben. A few moments later we heard a loud rustling coming up the trail. It turned out to be Lex, completely decked out from head to foot in bright yellow plastic. He even had his bike wrapped up in plastic bags. I could only begine to imagine how hot he must have been under all that gear.
With five riders we decided to wait no longer for JCL or Little John and charged off without them. Every time I looked at lex I had visions of some lonely lighthouse keeper battling to keep the light burning on some god forsaken rock amidst a stormy sea. Was it seawater running down his face ? No it was sweat from his portable plastic sauna. By the time we reached Wandin he had had enough and charged ahead to get back to Woori Yallock so that he could discard his plastic gear in his waiting car.
We were soon met by Gary and Trish (I am always amazed that Gary manages to time his rides so that he avoids the climb up to Mt Evelyn). Earlier in the week I had been contacted by a reader of our web site, who announced that he would like to ride with the Ghost Riders. I told him that if he sent me a cheque for $200 (plus GST), he would certainly be welcome to join us. He replied that he would be waiting for us at Killara Station. I told him to be on the lookout for a group of superbly fit athletes, all wearing the coveted yellow jersey.
The truth of the matter is that by the time we reached Killara we probably looked a bit like a remnant of The Dad’s Army Cycle Platoon – decked in copious layers of insulation, ear warmers, foot warmers, gloves and the like. Alan (a young man of only 45) was waiting for us, excitement on his face. We quickly did the introductions and headed off again (it was too cold to waste time). When Chris McKay joined us the peloton had reached its final size of 8 riders.
Drawing closer to Woori Yallock we started to keep a lookout for Eddy the demented magpie. He had destroyed many a previous ride with his vicious dives and high speed attacks. How could we ever forget our transits with bike pumps and branches waving over our heads to keep him at bay? Eddy had also developed a special interest in JCL and delighted in repeated low level encounters with his skinny adversary.
It was only now that the awful truth came out – Eddy was no more. Apparently his sad carcass had been seen lying by the side of the trail. No doubt one of his victims had decided to fight back, probably with a 12 gauge shot gun. We scanned the skies for a sign of him. They were empty. As a lump came to my throat I knew that this section of the trail would never be quite the same again. No one seemed to know what to say as we rode on in silence.
As the ride progressed young Alan realised that the road to Warburton is not a short one (especially on your first ride). We later learnt that he had already lost 30 kg and was aiming to lose some more through cycling. I could have told him that, on his first ride, he had already ridden further than Hooters had achieved in the past THREE YEARS.
You can imagine our relief to find that the coffee shop had a couple of hot pies left for us to share. As we huddled around the heater enjoying our coffee and pies, even Trish admitted that she was enjoying the influx of hot grease, caffeine and calories.
On the return ride we showed young Alan what El Capitan looked like. I explained that I could get almost all the way to the top but I “had not brought along the right bike”. The rain had held off and, all in all, it was not really a bad afternoon for riding. If we were going to cancel every ride in these conditions we might just as well go into recess for the whole of winter.
Back at Woori Yallock we were able to officially welcome Chris as the latest (number 25) Warby Ghost Rider, having completed her probationary period. Then it was back on the bikes for the final leg. Alan left us at Killara and promised that he would come back again.
It was only as we got near the car park at Wandin that a gentle drizzle started, but by then I was so close to my car it did not matter. It really had been another good ride, only later did I discover that somewhere during the course of the afternoon I had broken a spoke and ruined my back tyre. At least Springtime is only a couple of weeks away – maybe that will bring back Crasher from hibernating in front of his computer.