THE 3RD ANNUAL TOUR DE MELBOURNE
The 3rd annual Tour de Melbourne a.k.a Melburn Roobaix a.k.a the Hell of the Northcote a.k.a the Stereosonic of June (RIP). Always held around the final weekend of June, it is the Southern Hemisphere’s answer to Paris Roubaix, arguably offering up a much greater challenge as there are no team cars allowed, and the cobbles are approximately 4 times greater in size. Whilst Melburn Roobaix has been around for over 10 years now, it has only been graced with the unorganised presence of the Soup Boys since 2014. Since that fateful year it has become a shining light on the SBC annual calendar – up there with Tour Down Under, the Festive 500 and the free entry pilgrimage to My Aeon every Saturday night.
I: A BRIEF HISTORY
In order to tell the story of the 2016, 3rd annual Tour de Melbourne properly, we must first venture back to when we, as the Soup Boys made our debut on a fateful afternoon in late June of 2014...
Borne out of not wanting to ride our pristine and finely tuned road racing bicycles over the unforgiving Melbourne cobbles, the $80 bike challenge was the centrepiece of our Melburn Roobaix debut back in 2014. The rules were quite simple, one could only spend a grand total of $80 not a cent more. Upgrades were welcomed, encouraged and in most cases required, but the budget remained the same regardless. Gumtree screenshots accompanied with text message haggling were provided as evidence to expenditure, meaning on the day each Soup Boy lined up on the following bicycles.
Lewis: Chinese Fold Up
Adrian: Specialized Rock Hopper
Harry: Ricardo Road Bike
Alex: USPS Trek
Ben: Apollo Road Bike
From the challenge came the much loved phrase of “$80”. Used whenever one would be haggling with an online bike merchant, regardless if the price was $40 or $1000. It also led to a second running of the challenge the following year, however nothing could match the outcome of 2014.
The original plan for the day was to ride to the start, maximise fun and participate in many stop offs along the way. Unfortunately that wouldn’t be the case, as evident quite early on when Harry suffered 3 mechanicals in the 2km between Soup Boys HQ and the nearest train station. This meant a Metro Transfer to Hawthorn was required, long enough to sing out the entire album Relax by Das Racist. Once we stepped off the train, our day could be defined by the following acts:
The rain, then mud. Over the trails, cobbles and most roads. All day long. It soaked us to our bones, and combined with the ice cold wind made shifting, braking and fixing mechanicals nearly impossible. Shoes and pants from multiple riders were reluctantly retired at the end of the day. Aero tucks, lead out trains and spinning out our biggest gears were all employed in vain for the cobbles and the trails took no prisoners.
St Gareth aboard his chariot of #morebeers. Discovered in Kew, St Gareth helped raise spirits on such a cold, dreary day – providing us with the courage and the power to continue forth. Little did we know that years down the track he would be the operator of our beloved local bicycle store, Essendon Cyclery.
It was a series of events in rapid succession that had us questioning if we should continue on or hit the velodrome showers. In Northcote, Lewis succumbed to peer pressure and hit the steep downhill cobble sector on his beloved Chinese fold up bike. This led to the devastating loss of his first son, a formerly pristine bottle of Moscato. And it wouldn’t be much longer before he was left childless, as the following cobbles led to the six pack of beers he had in the back exploding right outside Temple Brewery. Fitting, yet so heartbreaking.
It would be these three acts in conjunction with the entire experience of the day that would shape the Soup Boys future, and go on to define what the Tour de Melbourne really meant.
II: ADL DIVISION ROAD TRIP
If there's one (1) thing we do better than riding bikes, being cute teens, exploring forests, entrepreneuring, leading the game, inventing, Innovating, imagining, and creating dreams: road trips. The ADL division trip to Melbourne was a great testament to our dope, next level road trip expertise. Now we could rattle on about the details of our venture in ultra HD, instead we will take the approach of the historical retelling of Melburn Roobaix's past as inspiration and unpack it in Shakespearian act form.
ACT ONE: FOOTY TRIP WITH THE BOYS
It took just 108 of the 800km journey before Jack and Alex made the executive decision to purchase a sweet, sweet box of Southwark Stout (future sponno). 10/10 strategy, and a highly recommended technique. You could call it victimless if it wasn't for Lewis, who had to then drive the remaining 692km across the country alongside two (2) obliterated idiots, stopping for various food, drink and nature breaks. Think of the time you caught a cab home after a long night at Red Square and your mate gave the taxi a $50 tip because you were being such a drunk obnoxious c**t, now imagine that nice guy being an even bigger drunk obnoxious c**t. Now think of that taxi ride being 8 hours long.
ACT TWO: GOODBYE STEVE
Drunk Jack losing his Apple iPhone somewhere between Ballarat Subway and St Billydawg's house. Which is basically like being in solitary confinement unless you have a payphone card and a really good sense of direction (none of which Jack has). He was left to find the starting place of all rides/extra-curricular activities with nothing but a hand drawn map, hopes and prayers.
ACT THREE: THE BULKING DIET
Although 99.95% of the Soup Boys are permanently sitting in the "cutting" stage (to maintain 'lean teen' status all year round), road trips are exclusively set aside as a time for bulking. We believe that to truly experience any location you must experience the finest cuisine it has to offer as much as possible. Think Ballarat Subway, Trippy Taco, Jovanis or Cirelli & Co as ways to maintain our strict daily intake of 10,000 calories during the road trip bulking stage.
ACT FOUR: CREATE A PLAN, THEN FUCK IT
Not literally, come on. But who needs plans anyway? You think Matt Hayman went into Roobaix with a plan? Chris Horner when he won the Vuelta? We leave plans to Dave Brailsford as it means you're not prepared to life as it comes to you and experience new places, flavours, cultures and of course emotions. Here at Soup Boys we make sure that things never go to plan, see Chapter III and almost every other ride we have ever done.
ACT FIVE: A GRANDIOSE SEND OFF
All great road trips must end with an epic send off. But only the greatest road trips end with a Jovani's send off. As all the boys gathered at Soup Boys HQ, many a pizza, pasta, risotto, garlic bread and choccy mousse were consumed. Much shit was spoken, yet it was never really decided who was dropped on that fateful night (our guess is Dean, or Zeke). This marked the end of the first of the ADL Division to Melbourne road trip, but only the beginning of many game changing Soup Boys road trips.
III: CAFFE ONE (PEPPER) ft. BONUS PAVE
Much to everyone's alarm and fright, Jack managed to find himself at Pepper, the location of our pre-race caffé latte 45 minutes early, or possibly on time (just as rare) if everything was on schedule. So late were we running that as we sat down to order, friends were announcing their arrival at the Hawthorn Velodrome Grand Depart some 18km away. We would not be phased though as we all knew how important nutrition was during Melbourne’s most grueling one day non races.
With caffé coursing through our veins, the debate on how to pronounce almonds settled, and a modified route planned, it was time to shoot across town where we would hopefully be able to join the race unnoticed and in much higher spirits than our counterparts who would have already endured the first 2 cobbled sectors. Not wanting to enter the race with totally cold legs however, we hit the first of many pieces of #bonuspavé on arguably the most important piece of pavé in Australia – for it turns into the drive thru of the fabled Racecourse Rd McDonalds.
The West to East commuter cup drag strip acted as the transfer route for the mornings ride across town. 3 a side games of basketball were held to warm up the hands, rap squats to warm up the quads and glutes, and any tiny segment of single track hit to help tune in the bike handling skills before the real racing began.
Ben on the other hand was keen on just spending the day on nothing but his rear wheel, refusing to place it back on the cycle path even when crying passers by pleaded with him. Reckless.
V: PAVE ONE & TWO
Our aero arrival was made as we cut the race off at the site of the Ivanhoe Christmas Lights, currently in their offseason. Riders who had been there from the start were already showing deep signs of fatigue with some already covered in lashings of mud.
⇑ The opportunity was taken to chill among a Cayman* setting and practice our best pain faces before we joined the peloton. (*we will explain that reference at a later, more appropriate date)
⇓ Sure he roadtripped from Adelaide, but before that he came from a land where there was something a bit stronger than champagne sprayed on the podium, and where gabba isn’t a type of jersey. King looc.cool and he was making sure he was looking cool and promoting his dance academy throughout the day. Fitting considering it was during Australia’s hardest one day non race, the “Stereosonic of June” (RIP).
Once we had joined the racing proper, Ben immediately demonstrated the big dog technique via a 42t cog on his cassette, spinning his way up the nearby path, and then up the biggest available tree at the top. A strong technique as it meant he was able to avoid those choosing to crash off the edges of gutters.
The first and second sectors of pave were nothing short of anticlimactic as there were 0 faceplants, punctures or other mechanicals. Such was the ease of the entire first sector that riders were able to hit the sticker zone without needing to slow down our dismount. This may have had something to do with the fact this segment was more meek gravé than pavé. We weren't aware this race paid homage to Strade Bianche. It did however provide plenty of time to chill at the exit, so it can’t be completely shot down.
The second pavé sector may have come with a star rating for difficulty, but we are rating it 0/5 stars for lack of challenge. So chilled out was this second sector that we were second guessing ourselves over if we had taken a wrong turn let alone shown up to the same Tour that chewed us up and spat us out the previous two years. To make up for lack of death defying riding, Jack and Ben gave us a demonstration of Epic Downhill Mountain Bike Shredding. One doing it with more ease than the other.
VI: CAFFE TWO (BARRY)
The Three Wise Men had the Christmas Star to follow to find the birthplace of our Lord Saviour Tom Boonen, and we had the Skid.cc crew. It was immediately after the Epic Downhill Mountain Bike Shredding demonstration that we realised we didn’t really know where we were, thus through a flurry of trackstands, skids, lead out trains and the kindness of their own hearts they kindly chaperoned us to Barry, the next checkpoint and the site of our second caffé latte rest stop.
Dean Jones Yelp Review Barry Edition:
Key Lime Donut easy 10/10, the Coconut Cold Drip though? 6/10 it was way too cold for that shit.
VII: PAVE FOUR - EIGHT
The West to East commuter cup route now became the East to West commuter cup route as we made our way back across town to hit the remaining required and bonus pavé. Ben still adamant that his front wheel wasn't going to touch the ground all afternoon.
⇑ One of the largest collective meetings of male models who are also cyclists in the Southern Hemisphere. Have you ever seen a group of lycra louts look so stylish? Hell no.
Adrian offered his official mayoral welcome and crucial shortcuts as the race hit Ascot Vale and the Flemmo (Flemington) Drains. Citylink must have caught wind about the massive sessions laid down over the previous two years and closed most of it off, so no hectic-ness was to be thrown down. Instead a short TT to West Brunswick was held, nowhere near as fun.
As we approached the end of the final cobbled segment our lead out train was derailed as Alex, sitting at the front went over the handlebars in his best attempt of a Ben circa 2014 impersonation. With our main sprinter back on his bike but out of the equation for the overall, we rolled back to the Brunswick Velodrome a.k.a Roobaix via Lemonade stands, the Franco Cozzo store, and the always smiling nice guy Scotty Rettino.
VIII: FINISH LINE SCONES
Not plain, sultana, pumpkin or any other edible kind. Human cyclist ones. Only the bravest, most courageous cyclists finish the Melburn-Roobaix, and their scones testament to the pain and torture endured on two wheels. Photojournalist Dean Jones was on the scene to document the pain faces of the Hell of the Northcote 2016. The featured scones were all being replenished with stories of the day, beer, Beatbox Kitchen and jam donuts in the hope it would carry weary legs home.
Because we are such nice guys, and continuing the winter warmer recipe theme, have a recipe for plain scones to accompany endless cups of tea on dreary winter mornings and afternoons. Taken from the 1996 Presbyterian Women's Missionary Union Cookbook.
2 cups of self raising flour
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
3/4 cup of milk
1 tablespoon of butter
Sift flour and salt, add sugar then rub butter in lightly. Pour in milk almost all at once, working lightly into a soft dough. Turn on to a lightly floured board, knead as lightly as possible, roll out then stamp out with a round cutter (this process could also be utilised on legs in post race recovery). Glaze with yolk of egg or milk, put on scone tray and bake in a hot oven for 7 to 10 minutes.
IX: DYNAMISM OF A DOG ON A LEASH VOLUME 2
A complete lack of shredding opportunities amongst the Flemington drains left Ben yearning for more. To raise the spirits on the ride back to Soup Boys HQ, he provided us with Volume 2 of Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, a much awaited sequel to Alex’s Gawler Plaß efforts during the Tour Down Under, Ben was kind enough to lower his front wheel and rip one down the famed Rothwell Hill. He’s actually selling his bike, so if you would like to read about it and consider its acquisition, click here.
X: HQ KICK ONZ
Back in 2014 our saving grace was Papa Jovani, proprietor of the #1 local pizzeria. In our hour of need, following on from the torment of 9 hours riding through the freezing cold and the rain, the Soup Boys collectively huddled around an open heater and broke bread (pizza) and drank the blood of Christ (Coopers Sparkling Ale). Since then it has become the traditional source of post Roobaix sustenance as stories of the day are swapped over slice upon slice all before everybody returns home to their respective pocket of the hood.