HOME GROUND ADVANTAGE: MCL CARIBBEAN CROSS
After a season of away days, finally it was coming home. The time had arrived for race day on our own, hallowed turf. While there would be no unfurling of the flag, or last years trophy, cyclocross at Caribbean Park is always a cause for celebration – the tropical getaway in the middle of a Melbourne winter always greeted with a warm welcome. The park committee had torn up most of last years course to make way for new buildings and Tony Hawks Pro Skater type plazas, meaning a new course had been sculpted by MCL legends Gooda and Wilko Show, the addition of a number of pinch climbs and descents dropping the dirt crit rating of previous years by a few points.
I: CAYMAN CORNER
Sheltered from the wind behind the Cayman Bluff was our Caribbean Chillout tent, Cayman Corner occupying the entirety of turn 2, and the entry of turn 3. Racers were provided with a soulful playlist curated by Okky to send them off into the wildnerness of the rest of the lap. On the corner of our tent the Cayman Flag blew proudly, the amount of turtle and pineapple made visible by the fluttering allowing us to judge wind speed and direction when hatching plans and race strategies.
For this very special race day, we put together a series of Access All Areas Media Passes™️ for our beloved media crew. With their very own bespoke ID illustration they channel the Caribbean vibes of Windows 98 era Solitaire while giving greater legitimacy towards our wildly talented media crew. With their skills behind the lens they are the ones that bring the vibrancy and bokeh to our race reports, without them these would be nothing more than a thousand words for you to ignore and not much else. From the beaches, the waterfronts, gardens and the marketplaces, this tropical race reportage includes photos from Aaron, Adrian, Ben, Connor, Harry and Okky, while honourable mentions go to other recipients awarded Access All Areas Media Passes™️ – Wilko, Gooda, Scotty and Mitch.
II: PRE-RACE NUTRITION
Pre-race nutrition has been approached from every possible angle, be it a pre-race gel, or a $150 cheese platter as a night cap a mere 12 hours before race day. Antipasti is well and good, but as much as it is delicious, salumi, cheeses and craft beer only lends itself to a first lap burst out of the gates before dissolving into active muscles and retiring to a hammock hung between two palms. Fans of Peta Mullens would know of her strict diet regiment, and the success it breeds, so on the morning of Caribbean CX Okky and Adrian decided to test the anabolic capabilities of local McDonalds breakfast menu items to see how they would stack up. For Okky it was a Breakfast Burger, some hash browns and an Orange Juice, and he would be testing its energising limits as he sought to shoot and vibe his way through the day. For Adrian it was something a little more sugary, 3 hash browns, a McMuffin and a round of hotcakes. All syrup and butter was used as required, and as needed – he would be starting from the depths of the field once more.
III: SPONSORS FEATURE
Arguably the most tropical set of shoes there is, the Suplest Edge 3 Pro comes in colour matched tropical cocktail orange, or radioactive banana plantain yellow and silver. In a sport as vibrant as cyclocross too much emphasis is placed on the murdered out shoe, which makes a little bit of sense considering the mud-factor, but why not embrace and showcase the brightness for at least the first lap. The Edge 3 Pro is worn by a handful of members on our team, while others rock the equally capable, still bright but slightly subdued Edge 3 Performance. The testing ground of Season 2018 has seen them pass with flying colours, while their off track performance remains unrivalled. These things won’t look out of place chilling in a hammock, or poolside at the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown, Grand Cayman.
On race day there were a few last minute scratchings due to illness. Brando and Kip would be absent from the first starting whistle, instead we watched C Grade carefully as GPG riders Matt and Morgan battled against one another. It was difficult to analyse the condition of the course and the scope of each line without beloved team sponsor Ben from Greenbox Race Engineering, but with photographic rendering, and advice dealt by course builders Wilko & Gooda Co. we felt we as well equipped as we possibly could be for the impending mid pack battle.
Bright pink and sparkling in the sunshine, Richard Hinze strawbz flavoured skinsuit and Centurion canti-brake collab remains an ever present shining light of ~vibes~ come race day. Before the clouds rolled in from the Rainforest-y highlands of nearby Mt Dandenong, Aaron was able to capture him in his technicolour splendour as he fought his way to 6th – his season filling with top 10 finishes.
V: THE FEW, THE PROUD, THE FACELESS
It’s been a hot while since we published a full on exposé slash history piece, and fortunately for you we won’t resume things now. What we will dive into is the deep web of back door deals, convoluted strategic thinking, bucks being passed and shadowy figures that seemingly has the sport on puppet strings. We can’t believe its taken us until now, but with the publishing and brandishing of hot takes in Facebook comments posted in the week leading up to race day, everything became crystal, tropical water level clear.
Throughout the season we were confused as to our own teams positions of starting grids, and the positions of friends alongside us. While a few of us had jumped up a grade, we all saw noticeable forces meddling with the starting positions of ourselves and our counterparts. Like a tide being fucked with by some hectic lunar activity, we had been shoved way at the back of 70, 80 even 90 deep race fields. But why? We had scored points the previous year, we had been racing regularly at both state and national series level, we had been signing up for races earlier than most, yet found ourselves with enough time to mix a cocktail beachside as we would await the clearing of the inevitable first corner bottleneck.
Turns out things operate on a grilled, jerk chicken kind of level. Points are only filtering down to 20th, which means if you fuck yourself on the first race of the season, best of luck grabbing points at all for the rest of the year. Not only is the points system too shallow to allow nearby snorkelling action, but the Plan B falls well short. Either all our rivals last names start with the first 5 letters of the alphabet, or the system is gonna have to change. Jet fuel can’t melt steel beams, and this can’t go on for much longer with 90 fathers trying to vie for glory. Will a royal commission bring us justice and equality to the starting fields in 2019? Or will things be like the Panama Papers where we air our grievances, laugh about it for a bit then watch it get swept under the rug by David Lappartient.
The tropical trade winds that so often characterise Caribbean CX had intensified a little pre-race, leading to their category being upgraded to semi-arctic as temperatures dropped a little. Any warming up was rendered useless from the cold, and any sugar fuel injected into veins had now hardened. Despite all this, there wasn’t much sign that monsoons of previous years would be making a return, something welcomed by many who still bore tormented eyes from last years hit out. It would also be the first time B Grade wouldn’t be wrapping up the days racing, meaning the course would be a little greener, drier and familiarly bumpy compared to race conditions of years gone by.
Initiating DRS from the get go and maxing out his KERS, Jonesy clocked the start of the race, shooting through the field like a man possessed. He was out for redemption after his last showing at Caribbean Park led to scandal that threatened the integrity of barrier hopping. Ben, Ron and Nick followed suit, mixing it with the GPG and Team Why crew as the field slowly began to string out by mid-lap, Adrian trailing towards the back as he tried his best to push the maple syrup and crusted sugar out of his veins and into his energy stores.
While the course was much more technical, as far as cyclocross courses go the lap was flat, and it was definitely fast. Much like the C Grade race beforehand, B Grade men had clustered up into small archipelago’s, fighting each other for most of the lap with the aim of gaining the upper hand at the turn for home, a short, fast section that was aided by one hell of a tail wind. By lap 3 the maple syrup had finally kicked in and activated Adrian’s legs, allowing him to initiate a battle with Hoaxy. It would be one he would evidently lose, a lack of fire and man spread power no match for the King of Kits. Instead Adrian set his sights on Jonesy, and they battled it out together over a course too bumpy for men the same weight of boys.
Ron, Adrian and Nick battled it out either side of 50th place, Rob from Team Why CX the meat in the Bæs sandwich managing to hold off a fast finishing Adrian. Ben would be our only rider to finish on the lead lap, but much to the delight of the faceless men of governance he remained out of the points. A minute back Jonesy was paying the price for his supersonic start, an antenna protruding out of his helmet as he tried to signal for help with a callout to his home planet.
VII: ANTIGUA, BARBUDA AND CURAÇAO
Released in surf-able waves, the Women’s fields were released in lap long gaps. With the course starting to bed in nicely, it would be A Grade women kicking things off, but our eyes were firmly fixed on B and C Grade, with Katie and Ariella lining up in the cold. Ari would have to reluctantly pull the pin early, a lingering flu not doing any favours to her race condition and preparation.
Katie, off the back of her podium in Ballarat was repping team colours for the first time in Women’s B. Currently equal on points with Alice in the team silverware stakes, standing track side we were eager to see if she was able to gain the upper hand. Some time spent recently in Canberra manifested itself into a skills session of how it should be done as Katie sat mid-pack of her race.
A grade women would be last to roll out, quickly reaching an anticlimax as Naomi Williams either suffered a mechanical DNF, or accidentally stumbled into the Bermuda Triangle never to be seen again. Once she was out of sight, April McDonough took the win at something of a canter for the Flanders Health team, her dominance this Victorian State Series was showing.
Further back Katie would roll through in 8th place in a super tough and tight women’s field. Her top 10 finish meant it would be a battle between her and Alice for rider of the year, unless the boys were to pull out a few improbable wins during the remaining races. After Ari pulling to the side after Lap 1, she joined us trackside to cheer on Katie and the other riders, Edi from the GPG gang answered the call for success that was broadcast from the rest of the team, finishing 4th in Women’s C in what was her second ever cyclocross race.
Finally the A Grade men would kick things off, the Elite Bankers of Caribbean tax havens. Assuming the roles of humble tellers, or possible even just office clerks we gathered by the side of the course to cheer them on, the Maker Kern team morphing into one hell of a shell company, swallowing any opponents that stood in their way like they would funds.
Caribbean CX offers up a unique feature rarely seen on the Australian cyclocross circuit. Where a complete splintering of the race is quite common across national and state level races, it isn’t until the dying moments at Caribbean Park that you see a clear cut winner. Where the lower grades take on the form of various archipelagos and atoll’s, passing by in two’s, three’s and sometimes five’s early on, A Grade men casually and gradually pulled a reverse Gondwana, the first 10 riders sticking together and pulling turns in the wind for the first 45 minutes.
A Boy and his Chair – a RomCom
It’s so simple, boy meets chair. Maybe the live next door to one another, maybe they sat the same class at college without realising until graduation day. Or maybe in a weird twist of fate they pass each other in the street. It could be a whirlwind romance, something that only comes together at the last, after numerous hurdles of emotion and fate finally lock together like the perfect, lovestruck puzzle. Once they are together they never want to part, and so; Boy and Chair spend every waking moment together. He likes the way it makes him relax, while it likes the touch and feeling of reliance it gets from the relationship. They camp at Wilsons Promontory together, roast marshmallows by the fire, and travel around a cyclocross course together. Whether they tangle their bodies together as one, or Boy romantically carries Chair over his shoulder like the male lead of a post-war romantic drama they remain together on this journey we call life. Til death do they part.
The sun came out, the snipers with their telephoto lenses got on the roof of the back end of the course, and the bodies hit the floor. While Ogaram was elbows deep in muddy macro snaps, we watched the finale of the race unfolding. The unfortunate dismantling of Daniel Braunsteins wheel spelling an end to what had probably been his best race all season, the defiant double punctured fall of Total Rush’s Working Class Hero, the whittling of the front of the pack, and the cat and mouse game over the final few laps. In the end it would be a man in familiar territory among the tax havens – Garry Millburn leaning on his experience as a financier to launch an attack with 2 corners to go and sprint down to the line for the win on what has now been rebranded Savings Sunday.