Riders and Delicate Soigneurs of the FIS!
Caught by a gust of dry, warm breeze, an empty beer can nudged my Sidi shoe in the half light and rolled off into the gutter as I waited alone at the rendezvous point - not a flashing light to be seen up the crescent through the wind-jostled plane trees - not a good start.
How could I, as a solo rider, generate the camaraderie, the sense of shared endeavour, the triumph over adversity that was about to unfold on the ride?
At 7.05, as I prepared to ‘roll off’, there was a ghostly shimmer in the distance and my faith in the bunch and the anti-clockwise rotation was restored.
With the ever-strengthening wind astern we sped past familiar and comforting waypoints on the way to Mornington – the inevitable unicyclist perched eight feet up on a four foot wheel (we were disappointed not to have seen him tackling Oliver’s Hill), an occasional recumbent, Tour de Lygon B team, the dunnies at Mordy, the dunnies at Frankston, Ken Bruce Nissan Mt Eliza etc etc.
We knew we were getting closer to Mornington as the number of tattoos on motorists and bystanders steadily increased. This was THE BIG ONE – Around the Bay in a Day!
It was pushing 28 degrees as we piled the bikes against the florist shop window next door to Café Biscottini in Main St Mornington.
Heads turned as this Flemington Institute of Sport bunch swaggered to an outdoor table and ordered Tough Rider’s Breakfasts all round – lightly poached pigeon’s eggs with a salted caramel jus and torn rocket, sautéed nightingale wings on a bed of sugared caraway and fennel seeds, soy chai lattes with leather wood honey for everyone. Richard had barely put away the last mouthful of his double-glazed Belgian waffle with Ugandan honey highlights when the ride captain signalled the start of the return journey.
And ‘twas there that the cycling NIGHTMARE began.
The FIS bunch, with shoulders hunched to the gale that was now blowing straight from the middle of the Tanami Desert in the NT, turned on to the highway and into the middle of a long straggle of Around the Bay riders identically dressed in the latest ATB jersey creation
Shorts, long pants, chain rings the size of twenty cent pieces, gigantic mountain bikes, enormous panniers, equally large derrieres, straight bars and sneakers (dirty), members of the BILLOWING JACKET BRIGADE, forests of cable ties protruding from helmets (are these riders expecting pterodactyl attack?), bike lock cables would around top tubes (just in case someone tries to STEAL MY BIKE on the ride!), helmets pushed to the back of the head, participants dawdling in the middle of the road at 10kph, and of course brainless dolts in hot cars passing the parade just a little too fast and far too close.
The road-hardened FIS bunch had made a tactical error and, Dr Who like, had landed, their bikes being a version of the Tardis, smack bang in the middle of an alien civilization – the 60km entrants of the Around the Bay classic!
There's nothing quite like a solid, hard ride and congrats are in order to Tony and Mark who rode Sorrento return, and to Ray who rode, so legend has it, 250kms!