This year we have been enjoying the “Mother of all Autumns”, a balmy never ending Indian Summer that has delivered us a succession of perfet riding days. As I stepped out of my car at Mt Evelyn a glance at the blue sky overhead indicated that today would be another ride to remember. The only problem was that I should have been looking down, rather than up, because I managed to stand right in the middle of the Mother of all Dog Turds. As I looked down at the pizza sized dollop that had attached itself to my shoe, my spirits started to take a downward turn.
The next 10 minutes were spent vainly stomping about and rubbing my shoe about in the long grass, unsuccessfully trying to rid it of its unwanted appendage. Fortunately it was not my cycling shoe that had been horrible despoiled so I eventually decided to relegate the poopy problem to a later time and went across to meet the other riders that were assembled ready to ride.
As well as our normal group of starters we had been joined by a likely looking newcomer. About 6 foot tall and as skinny as a whippet, this guy looked like he knew how to ride. When he introduced himself as “John”, we all realised that the last thing we need in the Warby peloton is yet another “John”. Our new rider was quickly renamed “Benedict” in honour of the new pope. Sounds like a good enough name until something better suggests itself in the future. Benny’s other claim to fame, we later found out, is that (at 68) he is one of the few people on this planet that are actually older than Lex.
Just as we were ready to start we were joined by a profusely sweating Peter who had ridden back up the trail from Woori Yallock to join us. “I hit almost 20 kph, in some parts”, Peter boasted. Not bad for a battler I guess.
I also took the opportunity for riders to complete a legal liability form. It is unfortunate that we need to take such steps but I think that all those participating in our rides will need to complete this form. I would also strongly encourage all our riders to join Bicycle Victoria so that you can gain the benefit of the individual insurance cover that is included in the membership fee.
With six riders we finally got underway, a little late but in high spirits nonetheless. Benny soon indicated that he would have no trouble keeping up with the Warbies, but I had no idea how fast we were travelling because I discovered that the battery in my speedo had apparently gone flat! I suppose it is better to have a flat battery than a flat tyre, but I was disappointed that the accumulated tally of all my km on the red rattler over the past two years would now have been obliterated.
At Woori Yallock we were joined by Hooters and the Spanner, along with Diana (aka “Princess”). Diana had already partly completed a ride with us before having her enjoyment interrupted by one of Bob’s spectacular crashes. Diana, who always likes to come prepared (must have been a scout in her youth), had her panniers loaded with a folding bed and an inflatable zodiac landing craft. As we wobbled out of Woori Yallock the peloton had swollen to 9 riders. When a hard working JCL finally caught up with us the number increased to 10 – always a nice milestone.
At Settlement Rd a couple of eager riders decided to push the pace early and a bunch of about 6 started to form. I was trapped in a bad position and no-one was willing to let me escape. The pace increased as the familar yellow sign came into view. I had no alternative other than to cross the central line and race up the wrong side of the road. JCL still had a couple of bike length’s lead with the finish only about 30 m or so away, but he seemed to have peaked in speed. Fortunately I had chosen the right gear ratio this week and managed to accelerate enough to pass him and score a sprint win. The only trouble is that after each sprint, I am spent. The remainder of the ride to Warburton was a leisurely affair, allowing the full peloton to reform and enjoy a chat. This is always one of the great attractions of riding in a group. (I did notice that Peter was obviously feeling the pinch and was holding on to the rear of Di’s pannier for an assist, obviosuly hoping that she would notice).
At Warburton we were able to sit in the sunshine and get to know our new riders a little better. Gary shared some more information about the TV documentary. We all felt a little sorry for old Crasher – probably languishing in his bedroom in great pain, not able to enjoy his new bike or share fun with his friends.
Just as we were getting ready to leave we were joined by Mal and Tom, raising the total peloton to no less than TWELVE RIDERS. This was certainly a new record size for a weekday ride. Keeping in mind that we had 4 of our regular riders missing, we could have easily had at least 15 if more of the regulars had shown up.
On the return ride it was time for a stop at El Capitan to show the newbies how real riders do it. Benny took off at Le Petit Capitan and almost made it to the top – a very creditable first attempt. At this point, Tom’s massive testosterone reserves kicked in and he set off up the main slope. As we watched in awe, his legs powered him up past the previous benchmark to set a new record! Mal’s record had stook intact for over 12 months but it was shattered. Mal could only look on in horror.
Somehow I managed to win the return sprint to achieve the double, but somehow I suspect that I was conned. When I looked back no one else had joined in the final charge to the line. A hollow victory indeed.
For the past couple of weeks there has been a fallen tree over the track near the small bridge at Launching Place. A few of the Warbies decided that it was time we demonstrated some public spirit by clearing away this dangerous obstacle. The only problem was that the tree was a lot heavier than it looked. A group of riders dropped their bikes and started pushing and pulling trying to get it out the way.
At first it looked as if their efforts would be in vain but finally a series of loud cracks reverberated around the valley. At first I thought it was Peter’s back giving out, but looked up to see the huge main trunk starting to fall to the ground. The only problem was that it was falling directly on to the place where Tom had left his bike! We watched in morbid fascination as the trunk crashed to the ground, literally missing his bike by inches. It would have been a shame if the bike that had so recently set a new record on El Capitan, had been smashed to scrap metal on the same day.
After leaving a bunch of riders at Woori Yallock the rest of us headed off for the final ride to the finish. As usual, the peloton started to spreda out as the gradient increased and tiredness sets in. Lex, Tom and JCL bolted in the lead. I settled into my own pace for a few km of solo riding. About halfway up the climb to Wandin I noticed JCL ahead of me. He appeared to be slowing down. To my surprise I actually caught up with him, thinking that he had waited to keep me company. “My knees are shot, my knees are shot”, he moaned. Well that was encouraging. I said that I would “slow down to keep him company to the top”.
A little further on Roger and Benny also caught up with us. It was at about this stage JCL had a miraculous recovery and again bolted up the final hill to Mt Evelyn. This did give me a good chance to ride with Ben and get to know him a little better. He apparently had enjoyed his ride and said that he felt he could really fit in (poor devil!).
Back at the cars we all agreed that it had been a great ride. We also started to make plans for our Round the Bay in a Day strategy.
PS As for “poor old Crasher Lewis”, I later found out that he is currently up in Queensland enjoying an all expenses paid FREE HOLIDAY for SEVEN DAYS. That’s the last time I will ever feel sorry for him.