I was still undecided about going even as I was getting up this morning, but in the end I decided it was a nice day for a ride, and it's not like you see world champions riding around every day. Of course, being a Sunday morning I was pretty slow to get going, and drove in to Hurstbridge around 9:40 - not a cyclist in sight. Oops. I quickly got on the bike and took a reasonable guess on which road they might have gone down (the signpost saying "Arthur's Creek" was a good clue). I saw riders heading the opposite direction, one or two at a time, along the way, and started wondering if I was going the wrong way, or maybe that I'd really missed out on the group somewhere. And then I rolled into Arthur's Creek and saw this, at the CFA depot :
Aha ! "Little" group found. Cadel was somewhere up the front, talking to the CFA people, or maybe giving a little speech - I couldn't tell from where I was, but there was occasional laughter and a couple of rounds of applause. And then we hit the road. I mostly tailed along at the back of the group, not because I was struggling with the tempo (it was billed as a social ride, after all), but it has been a number of years (almost 20) since I regularly rode in bunches, and I may be a bit rusty on bunch-riding skills these days.
Eventually we hit the climb to Kinglake, and a strange thing happened - people started going backwards. Or rather, I started moving forwards, through the bunch. I wasn't trying all out or anything, but apparently all of my commuting this year (and maybe the wider gear range on my bike than most pure racing bikes) has helped my climbing skills. In the end, I caught up with the front group of 30 or so rides (including Cadel, of course) and stayed with them to the top. At that point the Kinglake bakery and cafe (which only opened/re-opened recently) must have thought their Christmases had all come at once, with 50 or 60 hungry cyclists descending on the place.
After a break there (in which I didn't get my cycling top signed, although maybe I should have ?), we headed back down. I stopped for a photo or two (e.g. see below), and had to chase for a while, but caught up with the main group after 7 or 8km. We rolled into Hurstbridge, and that was that. 70km of riding, some of it through areas affected by last summer's bushfires, which seem to be regenerating as best they can.
And here's a view over the Kinglake area on the way down - in the middle distance, you might be able to see some cyclists on their way down (may need to click through to the larger version of the photo to make them out, though) :