I had never seen anything like it in my life before. A few days earlier I had seen a fascinating documentary in which young Chinese children completed huge mathematical calculations at breathtaking speed by drumming their fingertips on the desktop. Apparently they had learned to visualise a “virtual abacus” in their minds and therefor no longer required the aid of a physical abacus to assist their mental gymnastics. That was incredible enough, but it did little to prepare me for the sight of a familiar face riding a “virtual bicycle” down the Warburton Trail.
At first I thought it might have been some sort of delusion caused by over exerting my middle aged body as I completed the final uphill section to Warburton. I took off my sunglasses to get a clearer view, but the strange apparition persisted. There was no doubt it was Big Al, back on the familar trial after his recent face plant on the Phillip Island ride a couple of weeks ago. He was powering up the track – WITHOUT a bike. This would have been strange enough in its own right, but even stranger was the fact that Warren was puffing along behind, vainly trying to keep in touch with him. In spite of the fact that Warren had the assistance of a real bike, Big Al was still putting distance into him. And this was the same guy that, only a few months ago, struggled to ride his bike from Woori Yallock to Warburton. He had obviously progressed so far in the sport that he no longer needed a real bike for his weekly rides. What a legend.
A few minutes later we started to assemble at Trail Blazers Cafe for afternoon tea. A quick head count showed that we had again achieved a peloton of approximately 15 riders. It was a relief to see that Big Al had now managed to pick off most of the scabs from his face and was now back to looking like his old self again. The only remaining evidence of his unfortunate encounter with the tarmac was a sore left arm. Since this still made it hard for him to hold the handlebars properly he had taken to riding without his bike. Such two legged virtual cycling does have some real advantages, including the reduced probability of punctures and ugly decleating incidents. In spite of this I am not sure that will ever catch on in a big way.
Warren eventually arrived, red faced and out of breath, having chased Alan for the last 15 km, but by then it was time to get back on the bikes and start the return ride. While the rest of us climbed back on our bikes and clicked into our cleats, Big Al checked his shoe laces and set off at top speed. The afternoon was cool and fine, although the blustery wind was somewhat unpredictable. With the wind sometimes at our tails, but mostly in our faces we made our unsteady way back towards Mt Evelyn.
This Saturday is our final long traing ride before the Big Bay Ride. We are all hoping for kind weather conditions and a favouring breeze. Then it’s the Donna Buang Lung Buster on September 30th – the high point of our cycling calendar.