Catholic mystic, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” If you ascribe to that tenet, then everything you do, say, or experience is an opportunity to reach out and grab hold of that grand idea. That’s why we, dream, that’s why we strive, and that’s why we “just do shit” (Source: DT).
So when I mistakenly showed up cc’d on an email entitled “Rapha Gentlemen’s Race,” I thought “just keep your head down Bullet, pay your dough, and by the time they wake up, it’ll be too late.” Perhaps I was being too hard on myself; I was, after all eminently qualified to live in the company of the Raphaelite:
- I could grow a foxy George Clooney
- I rode an Italian Steel mistress
- I could do sultry, yet mildly disdainful looks to camera
- I’d been on the tele, so knew my good side
- I was just as big a knob as any of them.
It was to be a spritely jaunt (location to TBA) filled with “’triffing, whizzing, and lashes of Ginger Beer – a real top notch gadabout”. I hadn’t been this excited since I saw Melinda Robson’s mum getting changed through a crack in the door (cue Simon and Garfunkel…”Here’s to you Mrs Rob(in)son…..”), but that’s another story for another time.
Back to the task at hand……the Rapha Gentlemen’s Race is an annual ride that is held at undisclosed locations – to keep it mysterious and dripping in cache, you are invited to “apply” to compete – to keep it mysterious and dripping in cache; teams being made up of 6 riders, with one team member having to be female – to keep it mysterious and dripping in cache. I promoted my credentials as the rider most suited to this role ie Bullet (La), but Magoo would have none of it – even though we agreed that her George Clooney could potentially outgrow mine. It turned out that Magoo, as CFO (Chief Fashion Officer), held disproportionate sway, so I was in!
The team presented:
- Magoo – she of the sleek Merckx (think about it) and faultless fashion sense
- Fore – he of the firm buttock and desirable wheel (just ask Magoo)
- Schleck – he of the inspirational leadership, firm but fair, harsh with a hint of “hello sailor”; I’d tumble over a mound if he shouted “CHARGE!” I can tell you.
- Nicko – skinless, boneless, the poster boy of Heroin Chic and team Greyhound. “I see rabbits” was his menacing mantra.
- WBA – he of the subtle yet accurate perception – “Don’t be offended, Bullet…..but I’m glad you’re on this team…..that means I won’t be last.” He was right, damn him.
- And Bullet (Le) – urbane, calm under pressure, courageous under fire, the rock, the foundation stone.
This’ll be a cinch.
Only thing that I could see as possible obstacle, was the fact that I’d never ridden the distance – 143km and 2800mtrs climbing – a minor details, and that I didn’t actually own any Rapha clobber – a potential deal breaker. The CFO had clearly laid out her vision for the ride – “ER Dress Jersey, Rapha Knick and Natty Rapha Yellow socks.”
Riding in the company of “Rapha Gods/esses” I felt compelled to scale Olympus, liquidate whatever was left of my obliterated asset base, and head off to the House of “R”, 88 Bumcrack Road, Slurrey Hills, to right the obvious wrong. WBA had agreed to accompany me, so off we went.
The House of “R” is a wonderland of cycling chic and all round two-wheeled yumminess. Such a feast of cool stuff had my head spinning, not sure where to start, or where it might end? Enter, Clara, Rapha siren resplendent in on-brand attire and suitably exotic accent. She spoke with silken tone and her words clearly conveyed a subtle yet compelling subtext:
Clara (to Bullet): “Can I help you?”
Translation: “You are a beautiful man, you’d look good in anything and even better in nothing.”
Bullet: “Classic knicks and natty socks, thanks.”
Clara: “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you’d be a large.”
Translation: “There is a heat burning in me, a fire that only you can quench”
Bullet: “I’ll take them.”
Clara: “Anything else?”
Translation: “If you take the gilet, myself and 2 of my girlfriends friends will make mad, passionate love to you.”
Clara: “That’ll be $280, thanks”
Translation: “That’ll be $280, thanks”
Bullet (to WBA): “I think we had a connection”
WBA: “Yeah, to your wallet.”
Thanks to WBA, after a quick complimentary coffee from the proprietor, I escaped Clara seductive clutches with my self-respect and bank balance largely intact. We were attired, caffeinated, tapering and were going to look fabulous. All systems go.
Now go and get yourself a cup of tea before you read the next bit.
Saturday morning broke, as did my wind – a mild nervous disorder, I’m told it has something to do with Gluten…..BT? Collected by WBA with Schleck riding shotgun and Magoo on board, we peeled northward to the departure point that had been distributed via secret communiqué a couple of days prior. It was to be a Galston kick off, circuit out to Wiseman’s Ferry with a sidetrack thrown in, finishing with a Galston return – 146kms with 2800mtrs of climbing (according to the map – here’s the link http://ridewithgps.com/routes/3635812 ).
A cheeky little spin by anyone’s measure.
The carpark at Montview Oval was awash of whiskers, pastels and Zipps. Notable was the vomit tones of the Attacquer team – I think they were called “The Porcelain Bus Drivers” or maybe it was just what they were wearing. Needless to say there was plenty of the Branded Merch adorning the morning as rider after rider pursed their lips, scanned the general vicinity, and disapproved. The George Clooney had been superseded by the Ned Kelly, so I found myself wildly underdressed – but it was too late now.
The might ER’s were prepped and ready, a ripple of excitement laced with a dash of trepidation (I hope Bullet doesn’t blow up in the first 20) and sprinkled on our muesli – the perfect start to what we hoped would be an epic day. The weather was cool and overcast, the rain had held off, and it all felt very Fitzroy.
Nicko muttered “I love seeing people with Zipps suffering,” so I knew it was going to be quite a ride.
Quick caffeine hit, trot to the toot to manage the trots, and then we huddled up for the ride briefing. A skinny coot – Mr Pink Tee Fancy Pants – waived a trendy looking clipboard and told us that “everything’s cool. Keep an eye out for the pink (go figure) arrows on the road. Take it easy and let’s have fun,” and began flagging teams at 1 minute intervals.
“Sagging Coin Sacks……go!”
“Whiskers for Jesus…….go!”
“Easy Riders……..hey, you guys look great……and man, love that bike……steel is real, baby……go!”
Heady with the delirium of having achieved Fitzroy cred (tick that one off the bucket list), we dived into Galston with the past life screams of “Tora, tora, tora” ringing in our ears. It was a snappy descent made all the more exhilarating by the coolness of the morning air, and having gone from dead stop to breakneck in no time flat…..then we got to the bottom.
To be continued…