They say that a week is a long time in politics, however I have learnt a far more important truth -TWO weeks between rides can seem like an eternity. With no weekday ride scheduled last week I was really dying to get back on two wheels and bounce my way back to Warburton again.
With the added prospect of not one, but TWO new riders, that might be joining us for the first time, I had high hopes for a memorable day for the Warbies. The excitement must have got to me so much that I arrived at Mt Evelyn about 20 minutes early. After unloading my bike and enjoying a quiet sit in the warm Autumn sun, I was able to scan the surroundings, on the lookout for the first of our two new riding companions.
A few minutes later a car pulled in behind me and I was presented with a rather unpleasant looking sight. The guy that walked up to me an introduced himself as “John” actually looked like a real rider – slim and trim without an ounce of spare flesh. I must admit that I feel far less threatened when riding when others of more generous proportions, but tried to be friendly. “We already have a John in our group”, I informed him. “You will have to be officially called ‘3rd John'”.
The unlikely situation had arisen that both our new riders were named John. We would thus have the confusing prospect of THREE riders named John in the same peloton. It is obvious that we will have to come up with some creative nick names in a short space of time, otherwise we will all go crazy. I could only hope that the two new Johns would not break out in a combined chorus of “Why do we do this ?” That would be more than any of us could bear.
When Bob arrived we decided to head off and allow Peter a moving target to catch up to. As we started rolling 3rd John started pedaling like a whirling dervish and soon disappeared down the hill at a furious pace. Bob looked at me with a raised eyebrow and said “That guy goes like a train”. I had no alternative but to try to keep up with the frantic pace, but my efforts were soon thwarted when I scored a pinch flat in the rear wheel.
As we pulled to the side of the trail to examine the damage I began to regret not having Peter with us at this critical time. All we usually have to do is find a soft patch of grass to sit on while Peter rapidly completes the repairs. But on this occasion my mobile mechanic was nowhere in sight. It was evident that I would have to get my hands dirty and fix it myself.
Eight minutes later we were back under way again. Bob and Third John raced away while I laboured away about 20 metres behind. Fortunately no further mishaps occured on the way to Woori Yallock where we had arranged to meet up with the second of the new recruits – henceforth referred to as “Second John”. As this character joined in I could see that he was more a man after my own heart. With generous amounts of padding he looked like a man that enjoys his food. Such men are always good to have in any peloton.
I was not convinced that he would be needing the long sleeved windcheater and long tracksuit pants that he was wearing. With the bright sunshine and the temperature in the mid 20s I suspected that he would not be wanting to keep them on for long.
At the Launching Place Pub we finally met up with the original John (henceforth referred to as First John). It is indeed one of the mysteries of the cosmos that First John, who has now been riding the trail for over two years, is progressively shortening his rides almost every week. I suppose it’s because he’s just a “social rider” (as opposed to “real riders” like the rest of us.)
After the (rather confusing) introductions were made – “John this is John and that is John, meet John and John”, the enlarged peloton set off again. At this point we were passed by a group of Vets. With a brief “Look Out” , they charged through and disappeared in the distance, obviously keen to grab the best tables at the cafe.
The Ghost Riders ride to the beat of a somewhat different drum and headed off to Settlement Road for the traditional sprint. Since Peter was still nowhere in sight, I knew that my biggest challenge would come from Bob, although I had no idea what kind of sprinter Third John would turn out to be.
As the finish line approached Bob and I were side by side trying to coax every ounce of strength from our ageing legs. At the height of the sprint I heard an ominous crack and my body was immediately wracked with pain. Surely not a stress fracture of some vital part of my skeleton, I feared. In fact the real source of the problem was something much more mundane. My right foot had wrenched out of the pedal and by the time I had it engaged again, the sprint was over. Now I know how that guy Kelly must have felt in the last Olympics.
With my pride damaged, the remainder of the ride to Warburton was completed at a much more gentle pace. A couple of Johns had fallen to the rear of the peloton (Guess which two?), and Peter was still nowhere to be seen. On the final section of the ride we were again rejoined by the riders from the Eastern Vets, although a frantic final sprint saw the Warbies reach the coffee shop first.
A few more minutes went by before a couple more Johns and a Peter rolled in and our group was complete. It is becoming increasingly evident that our fame is spreading widely and while we were trying to eat our lunch in peace, we were approached by a local fellow who asked how he could join our club. Apparently he regularly rides the trail on his own, but has been aspiring to become a member of the famed Ghost Riders for some time. We tried to tell him that new memberships for anyone other than young attractive females, is now closed. He was not convinced.
The sunshine was idyllic but the wasps were somewhat overwhelming. Bob sat in mortal fear than he might suffer another nasty bite to what is left of his manhood. The rest of us dodged and swatted trying to keep them off our food. I am not sure what is worse, psycho magpies or swarms of wasps.
“Let’s go and visit some of John’s girlfriends at the Senior Cits”, I suggested. “We might get some free lamingtons”. Unfortunately the Senior Ladies were not home and we had to content ourselves with some other diversion. I remembered that it is compulsory for all new riders to attempt to ride up El capitan, and made this fact known to a few of the Johns in our midst.
When the new recruits took their first look at the imposing South Face of El Capitan, it was obvious that they wanted some excuse to get out of the challenge. With a torrent of abuse and encouragement Third John headed off first, making it about half way to the sign post before grinding to a halt – a beaten man.
Second John had a rush of blood and decided to attack from further back and in a lower gear. With massive legs all akimbo, and with the peloton shouting abuse from below, he managed to get a little further before crashing off his bike and tumbling back down the hill. That was enough to make the whole thing worthwhile. First John asked “Could you do that again? I didn’t have the video going.”
Goaded on by lightheadedness and his growing stupidity, Peter (aka Legs) decided that he would have a go. In spite of an impressive amount of revolutions of the cranks he only managed a miserable 3 metres up the slope before grinding to a halt. After all this time we had expected a more impressive showing from this man, but I guess when the going got tough, the tough went running away.
It was pleasing to see that 2nd John’s injuries were not life threatening and, after a few minutes recuperation, he was back on his bike again. By this time I was beginning to see some real promise in our two new guys. They were giving every indication of being silly enough to fit right in.
As it was I think the further that 2nd John rode the stronger he seemed to get. I also noticed that he had shed his winter clothes and had stripped down to unveil a pair of legs of similar proportions to Legs Warren. Between the two of them they had enough leg matter to equip a 40 foot billiard table.
After dropping 1st John at Launching Place and 2nd John at Woori Yallock, the reduced peloton rode on under a rapidly setting sun. This is always my favourite time of day and I NEVER get tired of riding this section of the trail. Unfortunately the long climb up to Mt Evelyn doesn’t get any shorter, although John, Bob and Peter seemed to revel in the challenge, leaving me to follow at a more sensible pace.
Back at the parking lot we had a few minutes to discuss the day’s ride and for Peter to puzzle over which girl keeps sending him romantic SMS messages. I was able to finally convince him that it wasn’t me – while his legs are a source of morbid fascination for some, I definitely prefer those of the feminine variety.
Overall another great ride which suggests some interesting times ahead.