I had a treat yesterday. Despite my interminable moaning about the cost of entering it – and I in no way wish to assert that simply because I enjoyed it, that justifies charging $75 for an 80km bicycle ride – I had a thoroughly good time riding from Waroona to Dwellingup and back.
The course was ideal – nice and hilly with plenty of opportunity for suffering on the ups and speeding on the downs. It was a warm day but riding through forest kept us in the shade for most of the ride. It’s always a pleasure to ride with a pleasant bunch of people but even better when our abilities are roughly similar and we are able to spur each other on all the way.
Waroona is bloody miles from Perth but luckily I was able to get a lift down with Chong. I don’t spend a lot of time in cars these days so it was a delight to sit back and enjoy watching some pointlessly aggressive driving on the freeway. We’re going to have to get a lot sillier on the bike paths than we already are if we hope to compete with this lot.
Despite not driving at twice the speed limit or tailgating anyone on the way there, we arrived at Waroona with plenty of time to spare and had just put our bikes together when our team mate Matt walked past.
Matt is a giant and capable of cycling at high speed for long distances on the flat while the rest of us struggle to hold his wheel. Chong was busy emptying a full tube of sun cream over himself.
We had a little stroll about the car park and registration area before running into our fourth team mate, John, who we promptly made team captain, which meant he got to wear the team number and timing transponder for the day. We would have made the last person to arrive team captain but our fifth and final team member, Thierry, is capable of gifted lateness and we feared he might time his arrival so precisely that we wouldn’t have time to pin the number on him. ERC riders apparently have long memories. Thierry left his helmet at home just once several years ago but the story of his doing this was related to me at least three times before the start.
Eventually we telephoned Thierry to find out where he was and got the not-entirely-unexpected answer that he was on the start line waiting and where on Earth were we?
Each team was starting 20 seconds apart and with just five riders, we were one of the smaller teams. Elite Racing Cycles entered four teams of varying speeds and sizes. In theory, having more people in your team should mean you can share the workload better and get a faster time but in practice the more people you have, the greater the chance is that you will have a weak link in the team who you have to keep waiting for. Although the events are meant to be more social than competitive, you’d be foolish to imagine we’re not going to try and get the fastest time we can.
The ride started with a nice, long climb (long by Perth standards, that is), which we cruised up at a good warm-up pace. The lighter riders John, Thierry and Chong all set the pace up the climb while Matt and I sat in and tried to keep up. An event photographer took this photo of us not far out from the start:
(or here if the link in the above caption doesn’t work)
Once over the rise, we had our rush of blood and started rolling through and were soon passing more and more teams until there were finally very few teams ahead of us left to pass. We found ourselves cruising through the pleasant scenery. The pattern soon emerged that John would set the pace up the hills. Although the rest of us all had a go at being the last up the hills, I think it fair to say that I made that position my own.
There were a couple of (relatively) steep climbs before our turn-around point but that just meant we would enjoy steaming down them on the way back. We could also show off as we passed the other ERC that were still on their way out. We may have been showing off a little too much as a few of us came perilously close to disaster at one sharp corner. The recommended speed sign at the corner was 30kph and my records show I was doing 60 as I approached it. Needless to say I crossed the white line but luckily managed to avoid hitting anything solid.
Luckily for us, John took his team captain’s duties seriously so although the rest of us started flagging on the way back, John took the lead most of the way and dragged us home. Just as the kilometres seemed to be ticking away more slowly than we would have liked, we hit the top of the final descent and were home in no time.
I’m sure we had one of the better times of all the groups that entered but it’s hard to know because despite our having a transponder, the results sheet gives us a time almost an hour slower than we actually did. So instead of boasting about where we came (but remember – it’s a social ride, not a race) I’ll leave you with out post-race faces: