WHAT A WAY TO RETURN FROM THE MID-SEASON BREAK

 

The mid season break was finally over, yet despite taking refuge from the ~cold heart~ of an Australian winter, a number of VeloClub Soup Bæs CX riders were out of action either with flu like symptoms, or through jetsetting their way to warmer temperatures. The sport of cyclocross would return to Melbourne, specifically the spiritual home of the sport – Brunswick Velo. It was here that Ben in his grand wizardry would go on to invent the sport we now love so much. With fresh outlooks we were raring to get back to it all, and this one was a real team effort. Guest photo-graphy comes from Ada, Wolffy and Dayne while the DS fired from the Film Canon, Yung Lugo wielded the lens in 5000, despite his ailments Ben rocked the motorsport lens and members of the team did their thing.

 

I: PRE-DRINKS

 

Never ones to shy away from any kind of sesh, pre-drinks were located at New Day Rising, recommended personally by team rideur Kip. Only 700m from the Velo it meant that either those on bikes or in cars were able to attend and not be too concerned with getting there (potentially legless) after a few beverages. In the end this wouldn’t be such a big deal as upon our arrival we were shocked to find that they didn’t serve alcohol at 8.30 on a Sunday morning. But the caffé lattes and bagels that were on offer would still leave us on edge and filled with a positive outlook for the rest of the day.

 
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II: CURRENT STANDINGS

HOLEY FORM GUIDE
Adrian (20, DNF, 8)
Ben (29, DNF, ??)
Kip (38, 25, ??)
Ron ( –, 34, –)
Sam (??, 29, 6)

HEAD 2 HEAD
Sam – 4pts
Adrian – 3pts
Kip – 2pts
Ben – 1pt

Fortunately we don’t have a coach to answer to, but if we did we would go for an Emilio Estevez kind of character as he would no doubt understand the plight of Soup Bæs and be able to offer some encouraging words to guide us through what has been a mixed bag of a season so far. A season where there has been just the right amount of milk bottles and gummy pineapples, but a season where we have come across just one too many rock hard chocolate-coated liquorice bullets. A super fast and mostly flat course that would advantage those with top end speed and a good starting position, it offered itself as our reward for making it through the brutality of Mt Beauty and Bright. With Ben, Ron and Brandon out with illness, it was a chance for Kip and Adrian to put some daylight between their opponents/team mates. Returning from Scandinavia and flying down from Sydney, Alice was making her official Soup Bæs debut at the Velo, while over in Adelaide Sam was rocking out at the South Australian State Champs, left on his lonesome by Fi who (understandably) was seeking sunnier pastures. The Soup Boys ADL Division would therefore be down in the park to yell support and sink tins.

 

III: AN EXPLANATION

 

You may have seen a reference that alluded to a “Bundesliga mid season break” and wondered what the fuck we were talking about? We don’t blame you, after all we are a cycling team(?) not a football one. Let us quickly explain this one to you instead of simply hiding it inside a link. 

It’s a combination of a number of things. Essentially your “strongest league in the world” – the English Premier League doesn’t participate in such a break because a) the British always have more to prove to the rest of the world, particularly on the global footballing stage b) the German winter, along with the Russian, Ukranian, probably the Polish (even though they’re a bunch of hard k’s) and many other Central European countries have a much harsher winter than that of the British Isles and those on the western side of the continent. Its good to give players, fans and staff a rest over a time of the year that is largely spent, snowed in. This means that generally from the 20th of December through to the end of January, football takes a competitive break, with teams choosing to either train indoors, or participate in friendlies and exhibition matches in a warmer climate. And finally c) games played around Christmas and New Year are a traditional fixture on the English footballing calendar, fans would riot if they missed out. In short, we had been forced into a 4 week break. The last time we had raced was in Mt Beauty and Bright, the Alpine region. It was now the heart of the Australian winter. But still we commuted most days. Now we were through the worst of it, and with the demands of Mr Pink no doubt, we were racing once more, longer and hopefully warmer days ahead. Now have some video highlights from the 04/05 Bundesliga Season.

 

IV: SPONSORS MESSAGE

 

Cyclocross, being a winter sport puts riders and spectators bodies through hell in often extreme (cold) conditions. The latter have the benefit of not needing to dress so aero and so minimalist-ly, while they also have the ability to warm themselves through race side hot food, caffé lattes and whisky. Riders on the other hand have to rely on the layering of “en pointe” team issue wares to keep them nice and toasty during the warm up, and through the application of embro(cation) to keep the legs hot and race ready. At the beginning of the season, a mysterious Dr Jones (we’re unsure of his first name) approached us outside the Footscray Markets as we were #parkedup. He spoke of a secret recipe for his homemade embrocation that apparently withstood back to back seasons of cyclocross racing in harsh Mongolian countryside. Having proven its quality right then and there, we jumped on board as brand ambassadors. It took a while to get this hot delight through customs but it finally arrived just in time for the Dirty Deeds round. With the option of 2 flavours (strengths) we felt that it would be best to try out the hotter of the two – Piccanti all’olio d’oliva – for our return for the second half of the season. Applied by both hand and bread, this new level embruhhh gave us a level of warmth and protection that we had not yet experienced in our entire lives, this was a game changer as it guided us to the start line, with our legs never more prepared.

 

V: DAD'S ARMY SEASON 2

 

Embro applied and warmups completed, it was time to return to racing. Kip ready to rock and roll in team colours for the first time, while Adrian carefully applied the Gucci stripes to his cx shoes (he’s still in search of a shoe sponno). Initial thoughts were that the wearing of pink socks would be a bad omen, and that we would be struck with some hella muddy conditions, but even after a warm up in which wheels were being chopped more viciously than in any Tour de France bunchie the course had held fast. And so our fearless riders rolled down the velodrome banking for another iconic pre-race briefing from the main man himself, Mr Pink.

 
 

Truly privileged to race in fields of less than 80-odd people in the Victorian Alps, a return to Melbourne meant Dads Army was renewed for a second, no doubt future Emmy award winning season. Blessed, and a little confused that we were still the young’ns of the starting grid the Soup Bæs were lined up in predictable fashion. Kip scored himself a mid range row on the grid, while Adrian much to his delight was placed 78th and last. In the closing moments of the race countdown, he offloaded glasses, a mobile smart phone and a watch to Ben who was also kind enough to mail a good luck post card to Kip who was starting somewhere around 30th.

 
 

Racing can be hard. No wait, scrap that racing is hard. When dissected, racing itself is just a lot of heaving breathing, screaming muscles and the satisfaction of overtaking C Grade Dad’s a battalion at a time, occasionally getting caught by a young buck who dispatches you with the following: a twinkle in his eye, a glimmering cassette as you watch him crest the horizon well in front of you, and a dad who slammed down one too many caffé lattes screaming at him on the sidelines, living his missed opportunity at “glory years” through his annoyed and shit scared youngest son. So thats racing, a repetitious series of left hand, and sometimes right hand turns that kind of hurt. Fortunately the Dirty Deeds course, as it so often does when held at Brunswick Velo gives you a few moments of respite on the velodrome proper. While you can still wind the gear right up and sit on 35kmph – a speed you can reach quite easily, the fact that you have a bit more width and a lot more smoothness means you can at least pretend to catch you breath as you blue line it towards the next entry into the maze that is a cyclocross course. This would be the section of the track where top end speed would be most evident. Adrian had used it to great effect at the Dirty Deeds CX Prologue under lights back in May, basically wall riding his way around lap traffic, and winding back the clock was required of him to move up from his starting position of dead last. Lap one down.

 
 

While unfortunate starting position meant that the task was entirely Kip’s, our pre-race strategy of not letting our man DH Dai beat us in his cyclocross debut was going well as Kip moved closer to the front of the race and into the top 20. Adrian languished in fortieth or so after taking 25 places on lap one, now getting caught up with the kinds of riders that freewheeled their way along any paved surface, and blocked the way through better than any Mont Ventoux Tifosi could hope. Both riders had fully embraced the mid-season break lifestyle and ditched any training strategies, methods or programmes, their plates of life holding a nonna sized serving of food on it. Despite this, both riders were sitting rather pretty, Kip having settled himself well within the testosterone-y gurn fest of the top 20, while Adrian moved into thirtieth at half race distance about a minute back.

 
 

For the most part, thats how things would stay. Kip finished up in a career best 16th place, while yet to lose a position all season Adrian came back to finish 23rd after a solemn final two laps in which he found himself in a giant hole between 24th and 22nd as if it was the EPL and the Championship. Despite any mid race frustrations and feelings of hopelessness in seeing those being pursued edging away, the mission was hailed a grand success by mission control. DH Dai didn’t finish in front of the VeloClub Soup Bæs, in fact he didn’t finish at all, a puncture ending his race prematurely. A lack of training and race fitness meant mid-race confidence had slightly faded, frustrations had begun to set in – particularly for Adrian, beyond seeing back row starts as a joke – but smiles returned once final standings and lap times were made known.

 
 

Now a prologue, four state rounds and a national series x state championships collab into the season, we were able to properly reflect upon our blossoming cyclocross careers. A team created for shits and giggles, for good times with great friends, a team to curate laughter and learn how to benchpress half our body weight. But despite all this there can be a perceived expectation that’ll sit with you, one that can be reinforced by the odd looks people give you when you roll up to the start line stuffing your face with a bagel, humming along to some Kraak & Smaak that is stuck in your head. Seeing you in #sponsored team kit, and knowing that our team is lovingly supported by handfuls of Fortune 500 worthy companies there can be this false sense of responsibility upon the rider. Instead we’re here for the simple pat on the back and the high five when you’ve done good, even when all the congratulatory back pats were spent on the well-to-do racey, chop your wheel on the warm up laps Expert boys. We can’t imagine what it would be like to have actual performance expectations, we’re lucky our DS is more pre-occupied with getting majorly turnt race side and that he is not Oleg Tinkov.

Instead we roll up to the start line having consumed a few too many caffé lattes, with duct taped shoes (you don’t get a place on the Fortune 500 by throwing shoes at your cycling team) and freaking the fuck out about how we will go in the moments leading up to old mate Mr Pink giving us the go-ahead. Why freak the fuck out? We’re yet to find the answer. Ironically not giving a shit is one of the hardest things about racing bicycles, but if you clear your mind, relax and let the smooth soulful tunes of Carlos Santana take you to a better place, you’ll have a good race. You’ll get a career best result like Kip, or you’ll bullshit your way up 50 positions. It's the benefit of racing with the VeloClub Soup Bæs CX team that we have Carlos Santana and a Care Factor of 0 on our side. You can remount straight onto your rear tyre and laugh along with the 50 spectators witnessing such a Torvill and Deancycle feat, despite the fact you may have just heavily decreased your chance of having children. Thats the fun of cyclocross.

 

VI: @BIKESANDDOGS

 

Cyclocross is one of, if not THE most spectator friendly format of competitive bicycle racing on the planet, for both man and dog kind. Despite the huge human audience at the Brunswick Velo over the weekend, they were almost, at times totally outnumbered by their (our) four legged friends. Why the lack of photographic evidence? You need to have subscribed to our teams Instagram story thats why. For those not of the social media ilk, how on earth did you find out about us? For you we are preparing a feature film entirely dedicated to bikes and dogs. Coming soon.

 

VII: SPONSORS MESSAGE 2

 

The gang at Pedla have a long standing and beautiful relationship with the SBC Family. Big on the local community and grassroots level cycling and racing they not only sponsor our mostly broke asses, but local racing – case in point being Dirty Deeds CX, the hosts of this particular round. From our first ever kit run for the squad a few years ago to the newly released VeloClub Soup Bæs CX team skin suit, they have kept us looking immaculate and aero. Now available to the team in a non-mesh panelled version, slightly more suited to non-Caribbean conditions, the kit has turned heads and copped a fair share of praise, not only for the impressionist inspired design, but for the quality of fit and fabric. Fellow advocate of “the sesh” and Pedla founder Marcin helped us put together a glorious race side set up to compliment the bench press competition we had from our plastic level partner Golden Adonis Gymnasium Complex. With a bright yellow pedal flag, and a camo backing to our team tent (offering incredible shelter from the wind, and the perfect backdrop for our post race press conferences) we looked the part and became a hub of activity, no doubt helping old mate at the Winners tent increase the sales of bars and gels fourteen fold.

 
 

Marcin, the founder of Pedla & bonafide local hero. Showing that Pedla stay ahead of the curve when it comes to more than just the latest tech fabrics and colour palettes (check their latest Locals United range for example). Here he is pictured having just returned to us from the year 2035 with pockets full of charger cables, most of which are for devices that haven’t been invented yet. We can’t believe we’re still stuck in 2017.

 

VIII: THE MASON HENDER GLOW UP

 

The post race comedown watching B Grade go at it, a favourite SBC(X) past time. Ron was out with illness but we had handfuls of mates lining up for a slightly longer, slightly faster remix of our race. Ming was aiming to improve on his performance in Ballarat, while Cam and Ry would reboot their season long battle for supremacy. But most importantly of all, Mason, our secret coach, teacher of #italianpassion and how #detailsmatter was back once more to answer the questions we’ve all been wanting answered: what bars are they?

 
 

Brunswick Velo acts as a perfect location to host cyclocross for a number of reasons. The first being the opening sections of the course winding their way through the infield of the track itself. Acting like a cauldron, nay – a colosseum of cyclocross (but not the Colosseo) – you are able to watch a large bulk of the race from kind-of-above, before the race disappears behind the banking. Another reason is that generally a lap of the course is so fast that your friends will be providing chances for heckling every few minutes, sometimes more often that that if you’re strategically positioned to catch the race multiple times in quick succession.

 
 

Leading by example, our secret coach Mason sat up the front of the field where he would stay for the entire race. It was with two laps left that we came to the sudden and shocking realisation that he had produced a world class blow up, heading backwards through the field. But this wasn’t to be the case as we soon discovered he was actually lapping most of the field. He would finish in 3rd behind a young kid spurned on by the severe pressure placed on him by his screaming father. His podium result would act as something for us to aspire to, to see if we could create some kind of supermassive black hole where a lack of training, nutrition and practice could equal both fun and results.

 
 

Further down the race, Cam, Ry and Ming were all looking very hot and holding a pace to match. The former two intensified their head to head battle while dodging the occasional rider who had taken a spill re-entering the velodrome. Tinnies, while already consumed pre-race were no doubt well on the mind of both, motivating them towards finishing the race just a little sooner, as was the prospect of catching and possibly beating Hoaxy who for his second race this season was having a blinder. Further back, his pink bike glimmering within a field of Giant TCX’s and Focus’ – Ming passed rivals like they were low growth shares, treating us to a brief moment teenage fanboy panic when he and HotWes were side by side heading around the back of the course. Cheese platters and a post race re-feed at Nobu was on the Prince of Kew’s mind, something DH was super down for after he accidentally stumbled into the forest mid afternoon.

 
 

Cosmic sperm? Sure, but for 50 minutes there he was our hero, he was rocketman. Shooting for the stars aboard a Curve bike, and dressed in a shimmering silver suit, his kit game was levels above anyone else on the day, the outfit completed with a perfectly suited bright orange stack hat. For his efforts we have formally awarded him with the Alcazar Award of Disco Excellence. Chapeau!

 

IX: AROUND THE GROUNDS

 

Over the border to the west, and after a failed bid from Coober Pedy to host the event, Adelaide Parklands were hosting the 2017 South Australian CX State Championships. The wider Soup Boys #squad skipped church for the day and head down to catch some slip and slide action, and to support Sam who was taking on the rest of his states cohort.

 

X: VAPERS CORNER

 

Having just demolished the field (so far) in the benchpress competition, a mysterious bearded man took to Hecklers Corner aka Pavlis Hill bka Vapers Hill to well ah…vape. And what atmospheric conditions it created just in time for the womens racing. Alice would be starting her first cross race for a little while, and her first in VeloClub Soup Bæs CX colours.

 
 

A bumper turn out for womens cyclocross at Dirty Deeds saw just short of 70 entries across all grades, and the racing throughout was nothing short of fierce. Much like the Soup Boys first ever experience of a cyclocross race at Brunswick Velodrome, much of the racing, heckling and crashing action came around the now affectionately named Vapers Corner. With many riders sporting purple glitter war paint, for an hour we were treated to bucking bull style remounts of bikes, some vicious apex and wheel cutting from some of the A-Graders (allowed, infact encouraged) while everyone else aimed to ride the entirety of the hill at least once, some making it, most getting anxiously close. Soup Bæs weren’t the only ones with new kits on the block, as Katie rocked a skin suit that had burnt our retinas during B Grade as worn by Paddy. The message was "get better", and with a kit so glorious and unashamedly bright, it was hard pressed to.

 
 

The afternoon kicked on with burgers, fries and caffé lattes from race side vendors, racing passing us by to the wondrous soundtrack of heaving lungs, heckles, cowbells, and Bruce Springsteen, Dire Straits and REM playing from Lord Vapers belt speaker. When we #woke from a much needed post race nap, we discovered that with a few laps remaining Alice had edged her way into the top 10 of A-Grade, which technically speaking would outrank the result of our not-so-secret coaches result in the race before. All of a sudden we had a new goal to aspire towards, as this result meant that the competitive face of our team had been truly saved. There would be no passive aggressive email from our PR co-ordinator tonight, no apologetic emails to our partners both platinum and plastic.

 

XI: FT. NACER BOUHANNI

 

Not thinking that a lap so short, so flat and already so fast could get any quicker, the A-Grade men would prove us wrong after about 3 or so minutes. Dylan Newell jumped on the front and steam trained away from the rest of the field, only to tow a handful of the strongest riders with him. For the opening laps there were approximately 0 exchanges as everyone was quite content in pulling away from the rest of the field. Ben Walkerden needed a bike change which caused Papa Walkerden a brief moment of panic from the top of the velo banking, but half a lap later and he was tacked onto the back of some kind of lead out train practice.

 
 

It was at around a third race distance where a worldview-altering scientific event would take place and shake the race up in its entirety. At the front of the pack Dylan finally cracked under pressure, Paul Redenbach flying off the front in a gallant attack many knew could be held for the rest of the race. Those that had sat comfortably in the leadout train for the last twenty minutes began to falter, and Scotty (or Jules, we couldn’t quite tell) pulled back some of the front runners one by one, providing no better showcase for the coaching and training benefits of JBlood. Further back, Nacer Bouhanni, moonlighting as a ghostly member of Giant Blanco took to a game of fisticuffs, clearly warming himself up for the midweek State of Origin decider. We’re talking fists, pushing and swinging of arms, all in what was the forest tunnel of love. The rider at the receiving end of it called it a day at the end of the exchange, as a simple and clean attempt at an overtake had resulted in some kind of physical attack that was beyond the expected throwing of elbows, and banter filled mid race jab of a friend. Upon his next lap, the tunnel of love turned into the tunnel of unenthusiastic boo-ing as spectators couldn’t justify putting in any effort in making their distaste at what had gone on known. Nacer Bouhanni lived to see another day, waving adoringly to the haters and continuing to ride off into the sunset of the finish of the race.

 
 

A few laps ahead, on a bike that probably didn’t cost anywhere near as much, AJ had shot off the front where he would remain for the rest of the race. A short attack left him all on his own, and he remained unthreatened all the way to the checkered flag as A-Graders found new places to crash, places you’d only crash when going A-Grade kinds of fast. Pantone GT would be the best example of this, providing three of the biggest stacks of the day, the most emphatic of them being the meat in the sandwich, a mid (or post) dab stack into the entry of the tunnel of love/hate. The race wrapped itself up basking in a monumental lightbro event, bringing out the warmth of the Over Yonder kits, and adding greater definition to Jules jawline. It had been a long day, race side naps had been held and even then the whole staying awake thing was looking real dire. The warmth of the late afternoon sun, and the inner warmth of the supportive #squad kept things positive as we wrapped up yet another ultra-glorious race day.

 

XII: EVEN ADELAIDE'S WINTER NEEDS ESCAPING

 

In a land far, far away from cyclocross, but not that far from Australia, Fiona was getting down with the sea creatures of Timor Leste’s coral reefs. While you would think that Melbourne and the rest of Victoria cops the bulk of the harsh winter conditions, Adelaide get their fair share – meaning Fiona was only too happy to escape South Australia’s bitter cold winter for two weeks, experiencing the unique culture Timor Leste has to offer, and learning to scuba dive as part of her Environmental Biology degrees marine conservation study tour. Reporting live a lot closer to the equator, she was happy to share her brief but Ultimate Guide to Escaping Winter.

 
 

Some parallels could be drawn between a cyclocross race and my time in Timor: plenty of doggos & puppers, and heaps of fantastic coffee…but unfortunately thats where the similarities end. It’s hot and humid but also incredibly dusty, possibly even more so than an Adelaide summer cross race! Arguably you could put together a training camp and return to SA ready for much easier conditions. Clanky old rusty bikes that are regularly used by the Timorese to get around the place, no fancy bikes here. Further proving that Timor Leste could be the perfect escape from winter/pre summer cx training camp, here are some bonus highlights in no particular order:

 

– Breathing underwater for the first time.

– Finding Nemo and his fam, and his neighbours, and his neighbours neighbours. We basically came across a clownfish colony on one of the dives, incredible!

– Seeing a mini Eel cruising around in a rock pool with the cutest tiny snappy mouth you would ever see (smaller than your pinkie finger!)

– Tasting something other than ride and potato after 4 days at a homestay, as important as it is to carb up for nationals a month out.

– The beautiful smiles on everyone’s faces here, all so friendly! No heckle zone.

– Watching the sun rise over the ocean every morning with two of the most excitable pups ever.

 

It’s been a fantastic experience, and learning to dive was incredible – it’s going to be an activity that will strongly compete with bicycle riding thats for sure!

 

XIII: LETTING THE SUN SET

 

It was sitting atop the fence of the Brunswick Velodrome where three riders of the VeloClub Soup Bæs CX team reflected on their cyclocross careers. While gloriously fun, the day had truly taken its toll. Ben hadn’t raced, but felt jaded and shell-like from a week long cold. Adrian and Kip, while taking a number of positives from their racing earlier in the day, were wondering what was next. Life came at us slowly, but still chances to train and to practice would be sparse. Basking in the setting sun, amidst a truly poingnant moment the three riders decided to bow out on their terms. Disappointed and short for words, they offered brief thoughts to the press who were milling around the back of the VeloClub Soup Bæs CX team tent.

 

“Ever been so into a game of Call of Duty: Nazi Zombies that all ability to breathe is lost, and you feel like you’re treading water? Only that instead of water its just a sea of computer generated Nazi Zombies? Thats how I feel. CX is on disc, now played with a controller and these 80 deep C Grade fields are the first wave of Nazi Zombies. I’m sick of the first wave man, I haven’t even been able to unlock the upstairs room.”

– Adrian

“Ayo I'm not even going to sugar coat any of this. Fuck it I quit”

 

 

 

– Kip

“It is with no remorse whatsoever that I am stepping away from the sport of cyclocross. I got caught up in how hard cross was becoming and the places it would take me, and I guess that since I got to race in Mt Beauty and Bright there is just nothing left for me to achieve now. As the inventor of the sport theres a lot for me to be proud of, and as Fall Out Boy says; Thnks Fr Th Mmrs.”

– Ben

 

What would be next for the team? For the sport of cyclocross? For the world? There were so many questions that needed answering, but to allow an opportunity for the respective riders to re-connect with their families and begin life after CX, we would respect their privacy for a little while.