HERALD SUN NEWSPAPER TOUR: THE RICH MAN'S ALLEYCAT

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I: A BRIEF BUT ACCURATE HISTORY

 

The setting is suburban Melbourne, the period – the early 1950’s. On a Monday morning before heading to school, a small group of strapping young lads assembled at their local corner store. What would seem like a regular morning running their respective paper routes changed entirely when a wager was raised between two of the boys. Not wanting to miss out on the potential winnings, the entire group joined the wager. Whoever delivered all of the Herald Sun Newspapers along their route and made it back to the corner store first would win a mixed bag of lollies and a can of cola (then 42 Australian cents), ensuring that they would be on the sugar high of their lives for the remainder of the school day.

Seeing an opportunity to make a quick buck, the newspapers owner Rupert Murdoch (then aged 75) bought out each of the boys paper routes for a then Australian record of 69 cents a piece. It was this important transaction that gave birth to the Herald Sun Newspaper Tour.

Soon after its first running in 1951, it was established that a small number of suburban blocks were not large enough to house a race of such professionalism, and the terrain was deemed to be too little of a challenge. Thus in 1952, the Herald Sun Newspaper Tour was run over multiple days, venturing into the regional areas surrounding Melbourne. The winner of each days racing would take home a small trophy in appreciation of their efforts, a bouquet of flowers, a bottle of champagne for spraying and the following days copy of the Herald Sun #sneakpeek. Through the decades that have followed, it has been the perfect breeding ground for paper boys to turn professional, gaining lucrative contracts to help deliver the message of Mr. Murdoch and ~educate~ the masses throughout Continental Europe, North America and Asia.

 

II: COURSE DESCRIPTION

 

Now we could write a super in-depth, analytical paragraph or two about the 2.1km prologue course, the zig zagging road behind the boathouses, the bumpy surface of Southbank not too dissimilar to the cobbles of the Arenberg Forest, the super tekkers start out of the gate. Or...instead we could post this truly iconic video:

 
 
 

III: COURSE WALK (upper)

 

We began our official track walk at the starting gate and Parc Fermé (good) as it started raining rather large rain drops (not so good). Ducking in and out of temporary cover from the elements (something we couldn't believe was necessary in the middle of summer but then again #Melbourne), we sussed the riders warming up in their respective teams tents. It was here that we scientifically tested, by ear, who's trainer was the loudest. Whilst there were many to choose from there was a clear winner. The LeMond trainer, of any model – which made a noise that gave you a feeling not too far off living under a flight path. Highly Impressive.

 
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Federation Square, the architectural ~jewel~ of Melbourne played host to the beginning of this years prologue. Something truly unique is the setting, yet it is something "so Melbourne". On an evening that was "so Melbourne" it was only fair that the beginning of the race saw uncertainty regarding the weather, with Matthew Keenan (safely under the cover in his commentary spot) obliged the semi rained on crowd with jokes at their expense before the first riders rolled out of the starting gate.

The course itself, possibly the only race in the world that runs from City Square to "the Cas" sees the professional bicycle racers travel from Federation Square, through Alexandra Gardens and along the banks of the Yarra River to finish just near Crown Casino. As riders began rolling out of the starting gate our suspicions were confirmed. That is, that the start offered premium opportunity for a study in Pythagorean Theory...but more on that later. Despite the light rain still sitting atop the bumpy, and quite slippery surface of Federation Square, the riders were trying their best to gain the upper hand early through the first few tight corners before opening up their lungs across the Princes Bridge.

 

IV: CORNER LIKE CASEY STONER

 

As witnessed last year, almost immediately before it became a worldwide internet phenomenon, there are a number of spots along this tight and twisty course that allow riders to hammer through corners with death defying skill. Even with the rain, with grilles or faux cobbles on the apex's of most corners, these professional bike racers delivered on what the audience came to see. Knees were dropped, jaws clenched and course barrier rails kissed, all in the name of gaining tenths or even hundredths of seconds. I guess that's why they get paid to race on two wheels. Seeing such magnificent sights filled us with such joy, such warmth that it could only be matched by that feeling you get when biting into a freshly baked Short Stop doughnut, or that first warm embrace from a hot shower after an easy century ridden through Belgium in the middle of winter. Highly important photographic evidence provided to us by Ben Lehner via Snapchat proves that a one Dan Wilkins felt the exact same way. Ah such joy.

 

V: HAMER HALL

 

Hamer Hall, sitting on the banks of the Yarra River was originally built (& opened) in 1982. Named after Sir Rupert Hamer, as in the former premier of Victoria Sir Rupert Hamer, it was redeveloped into its current form with refurbishment works wrapping up in the middle of 2012. Made most famous by a photo taken last year by Fame&Spear, it offers a premium backdrop for BRIDGE x #LIGHTBRO collab opportunities during events such as the Herald Sun Newspaper Tour Prologue. On the other 364 days of the year, it does have a purpose: housing a number of restaurants, bars, and hosting a whole range of musical and theatrical events. It is however on this remarkable day of days that it truly takes centre stage to light up Instagram.

 
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VI: FIRING THE CANON'S

 

We've already mentioned how much we adore Simon Atkinson, especially both his camera skills and lengthy locks – but this time we managed to get up closer and slightly more personally with the man himself. As stated in an official press conference (a caption on his Instagram account), he is going to be "following the race around Victoria as best as he can – could be great, could be shambolic". We think...no in fact we KNOW that it's going to be the former, so check his photographic work out! His take on the Prologue will no doubt alleviate some of the pressure we are all feeling from the Melbourne Francophile community for not providing for their demographic, and you can even see the other side of this camera battle.

 

VII: COURSE WALK (lower)

 

We have been trying to capture the Southbank Strava KOM for years, and we truly mean YEARS. We've tried training, mechanical doping, blood doping, then other less proven methods (training, lead out trains, tail winds). Turns out we've been going about it all wrong, because the only thing you need is a closed circuit. It makes perfect sense, because when you take away the hundreds of roadblocks (pedestrians) it lets you take the fastest line, not having to slow down at risk of clopping some toddler in the head with one of your drop bars. Despite the fact that this was all set up in the name of a professional bicycle race bankrolled by many sponsors, we are calling it a completely unfair advantage and an underhanded way to prove that the gap in social classes still exist. What with their disc wheels and their electronic shifting et al. But then we saw the riders come down, this time having navigated most of the "technical shit" and only left with the "fast shit" in the run towards the finish line. Hitting speeds that the Herald Sun (which as title sponsors they may or may not be talking up) reported as touching 70kmph, we realised maybe its a little more than a closed circuit. The way each rider shot down the bank of the Yarra with such a pace that it sent ponchos and blood orange suits into a turbulent frenzy was evidence enough for us. Never before whilst riding down Southbank had we caused so much disruption in the air before, and as the course began to dry, and dry some more, riders began lowering the time again and again. Maybe it's time we go back to the drawing board in regard to our Prologue Training methods. Perhaps we should give Will Clarke, who just like last year smashed a new course record a call and see if he can offer any advice because that dude makes it look easy.

 
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VIII: DEBRIEF

 

As important as competing in, or photographing or even just spectating bicycle racing is; nothing comes close to holding such high importance as the debrief. At first it was post stage free Gelati x1 (or x3 for Dean). When that wasn't enough, the mission (it was a few hundred metres short of being a "pilgrimage") was made to Port Melbourne. This particular edition of the Soup Boys Debrief took place at Old Salt in Port Melbourne, a trusted favourite of the Soup Boys. With food, a setting and banter between friends and staff of the highest quality the evenings Good, Bad & Ugly was drafted.

 

IX: GOOD, BAD & UGLY

GOOD
  • As you probably all know, the Soup Boys love a back to back winner and this time is no different. As if making the Strava KOM along Southbank Promenade completely unattainable wasn't enough, Will Clarke went and added more daylight to the already lengthy gap in class between us and him. I guess that why he races for a team with the term "Professional Cycling" in the name, and we are chilling in C Grade.
  • It wouldn't be a Good, Bad & Ugly without featuring the weather, but in rather un-Belgian fashion our Lord Tom Boonen granted us with clearing skies as the race progressed. Not only did it help the riders perform their best in the #cornerlikecaseystoner section along Boathouse Drive, but also meant that spectators could focus more on watching fast bicycles and less so on seeking shelter.
  • Disc wheels: for the sounds they make. Has a study been performed on which brands disc wheels make the best sound? Never mind weight, aerodynamics or durability, we only want the data that matters. Decibels we want decibels!
  • Melbourne. How many other cities in the world could host a bicycle race through some of the major commuter cup thoroughfares during peak commuter cup hours? Sure Paris can, but do they have the Yarra River? Do they have Crown Casino? Do they have #cornerlikecaseystoner?
  • As was the case last year, the prologue is more of a who didn't attend as opposed to a who did. Mates were everywhere, taking photos, heckling, posing. All the important stuff that makes spectating bicycle races fun.
  • Burgers. The pro's get the luxury of closed circuits. We get the luxury of burgers whenever we want.
BAD
  • Lack of helmets. Not only illegal, but in the case of a time trial, very un-aero. Sure we're talking about spectators, fellow commuters and c grade glory hunters, but nonetheless. Don't sacrifice safety AND aero. Choose one at least.
  • Heavy raindrops. Immediately sending you sprinting (or walking at pace) for the nearest cover. The thing is though this bike race was in Melbourne and by the time you have found cover, it is sunny and 30ºc again.
  • Not hearing about the Chain Reaction corporate challenge. Sure none of us hold corporate positions, but still we could have added a trophy to the cabinet surely.
  • Free Gelati. 6 flavours were on offer, Coconut Bounty was the pick of the bunch and the perfect way to finish off an evening track side. Wait, how is this bad again? Oh yeah, bad because only one of us (Dean) had the ingenuity, the nous to successfully go back for seconds and then thirds. Charmer.
  • There were no beats on the course this evening. Not even down in the nightlife hub of Southbank. What gives? We packed the M-frames, we had the energy drinks ready to go.
  • Media bros. Even though you probably don't like us with our Hawaiian shirts and lack of experience and vuvuzelas, we don't mind you. But don't hip and shoulder and start some sort of tussle for "the shot". Sure you have a paycheck, a job to fulfill, but we have something too. Have you not seen our Instagram? Have you not heard of @deancycle?
UGLY
  • Sort of stemming from the helmetgate scenario in the Bad column was a series of 1 wine Donna's jumping on bicycles in high heels and going for a spin down the last 200m of the circuit. Not ugly in itself but carrying the real potential when we lost count of the number of close calls with either pavement and/or railing. Yikes.
  • You'd certainly have to question the choices made by those who decided to use certain images in promotions and previews of this evenings race in the title sponsor's news publication. Hardly flattering. Now we don't say that with intentions of wanting to replace them, we don't look good with the word MEDIA emblazoned across our chests, and rumour has it they don't let you take vuvuzelas into the photo pit either which totally isn't our vibe. We just mention this as photographically discerning members of the public who want to see this wonderful sport represented well. That, and Rapha don't go to all that effort doing glamorous photo shoots to have some f**koss spam flash over and over for a cover(?) shot.
  • Federation Square. Will it ever be redeemed for such architecture? Jewel is obviously used in jest.
  • Without getting too Velominati on you all, unshaven legs. Whilst it was rather Belgian throughout the evening, it is the Australian summer thus legs should be clean shaven. You may shout from the rooftops that it is your personal preference but we refuse to listen to logic and reason, for we only believe in one thing: marginal gains. You're all lucky that any hairy legs were soon forgotten on account of the near perfectly executed retro kits that adorned your skulls and torsos. In the end, Chapeau!
2016, Pro Cyclingadrian zComment