When the winter weather fades and the days slowly start to lengthen it means the Spring into Seymour can't be far away and that is always a good thing. For those of us who view the winter months as a bit of a mid-year break, this ride is such a lovely season opener to get the blood flowing again. This is my favourite ride because it's a fast, flat course passing through some lovely central Victorian towns. Early in the Spring you need something quick and easy like that to make you feel like a champion again. And any ride is enhanced by the company of like-minded folk intent on wringing not the fastest time, but the greatest joy from a day in the saddle.
I've done this ride three times: the 200km once and the 160km (100 miles) once. This year, my vast experience didn't stop me taking a wrong turn and setting off with the 200km riders, who do a 5km loop to round up their distance before heading out of town. I could tell I was in the wrong bunch, or even within several kilometres, because I couldn't hear my mate Steve talking and cracking wise non-stop as he tends to do. It was quite eerie, though I pushed through it manfully. It meant I spent the first 40km thundering along in pursuit, reacquainting myself with some old friends as the half-dozen Lancefield Lairs I was supposed to be riding with laughed amongst themselves on the way to Nagambie (39km), where I caught up.
Onward pedalled the brave, with their chatter and their bad jokes and the sometimes by accident true tales of epic rides from distant past. We crossed the dreaded Kirwan's Bridge, which is a long single lane wooden structure in shocking disrepair which has to be walked because the gaps between the planks are so wide. We stopped at Murchison (63km) for lunch at the bakery and set out on the road once more refreshed whereupon a few drops of rain meant the jackets came out for a very few minutes. Back through Nagambie, a lovely tailwind towards the sleepy pub in Locksley (129km), where we took turns tossing a ball for a kelpie which had for some reason taken up residence unremarked in the front bar. Some of our number decided now was a good time to try beer as a sports drink, though they now report its performance wanting. Rode with some more old friends for a while out of Locksley before doubling back to the raggedy-arse bunch where I belonged.
A couple of years ago four of us rode this ride like dervishes, this time we took a slightly more leisurely pace, broken by intermittent breakaways as someone or other had a rush of blood or decided to test their legs over a gentle rise before sitting up to be reeled into the shelter of the bunch again as we picked up the odd straggler on the run home.
There are Audax rides to challenge the legs and there are others to confirm the simple joy of being healthy and alive. Six hours into the ride, as we cruised out of the famous secret checkpoint at Avenel (140.5km) and it was obvious we've only got an hour left on the bike, I'm sure we all felt the same way: Damn, this thing will be over soon.
Thanks to the Lairs for their company and thanks Carolyn Bolton for organising another memorable ride.
3783km so far this year.