SAM & MIRANDAS CYCLOCROSS EXTRAVAGANZA
The 2016 CX season had been played out in typical Soup Boys style by more than La Squadra themselves, with Adrian aboard his bicycle John Daly (the golfer) experiencing a fittingly tumultuous season. There was one last race weekend to potentially add further drama to the incredible soap opera that is amateur cyclocross racing, made perfect by a setting amongst the vines at Sam Miranda in the King Valley.
I: PARCOURS LOOKBOOK
Modelled by the A Grade men's race, with lightbro provided by sweet mother nature, and a half cyclocross half dirt crit parcours designed by a mysterious man holding a shovel, rocking speed dealers and a novelty t-shirt – we give you the course of the final round of the Victorian CX Series. Results may have played a part in racer feedback but Adrian went as far as to say the course was "really fun" whereas another anonymous bicycle racer proclaimed that it was "shit, boring, I hate it!". As we said, results may have shaped opinions. Whilst the layout would change to become more challenging the following day for the state title races, large sections of the course would remain largely the same. Let us guide you through the sectors.
Following a series of hectic esses (think Col du Grand Colombier on steroids) you were required to appropriately smash it down to the surprisingly flowy (at least on Saturday) and sponno'ed Thule Hairpin. Possibly flowy thanks to the wide exit and a pipe sat on the apex that provided bonus braking. Either way it signalled the end of the easier section of the harder sector of the course. You with us?
↑ If it wasn't for the wide choice of lines available that forced you to stop and think how you wanted to approach it, this next sector would have been rather quick. In true cyclocross fashion, this corner (above right) started the weekend as a single rut hard on the apex of the corner. By the finish of the weekend it was such a shitstorm we would've had to wade through waist deep muddy ruts to show you. Go search the deep web if you want to see it that badly.
↓ After fighting your way through the thick mud that greeted you on the exit of the previous corner, you could test your concentration traversing the edge of a small dam. $20 was on offer from Mr Pink for any of those who hit the low line at full gas, however many chose not take the risk of ending up in the murky waters.
↑ Weaving through some cattleyards ended the true technical part of the course as it the course turned into an educational journey on wine production in the form of an out and out dirt criterium. First you hit the "almost wine" sector, passing bottles ready for filling, big ass vats that presumably stored almost-wine (we were racing at a winery after all), and other machinery required when tending to a vineyard.
↓ Exiting "almost wine" you came to the "just fruit" sector to finish the lap. Bordering a particular lot of grape vines, riders would then shoot down a gauntlet that halfway down had stray vines only too happy to snap away at your forearms as you came by.
To conclude the hottest parcours lookbook shot in a winery setting was the Sam Miranda cellar door. Apparently designed to resemble Ned Kelly's helmet (we we're encroaching on his turf) it just slightly looked down the hill at the finish line, spectators and riders participating in important alfresco dining recovery processes outside.
II: FLANDERS GRAN THORNISMO
Having recently given up his day job as a career-sandbagger, it was time for our handsome friend Greg Thorne to take up a different profession. Fortunately for him, and bike admirers worldwide, the dude can design some pretty sweet ass bicycle paraphernalia.
Rocking his own brand Kern, he cut his teeth in A grade aboard his freshly designed and custom painted CX bicycle. A "fresh out the salon" Kern x Flanders Blade 3.0 had been given a kind of paintjob so that the ride in the cockpit became one with Kern the brand. Ducking and weaving past opponents through the educational journey of winemaking sector, he would be reminded to think about the treatment of both space and hierarchy. Connect with the thought and let it become a clap in the woods.
III: PODIUM PRESENTATIONS (4:20PM)
Finally getting himself off the back row of the "grid" didn't help Adrian at all as like Kimi Raikkonen at Monza in 2015 he totally reverse-holeshot his start and went into the first corner amongst the last few riders. Much like he had been practicing in the week beforehand on commutes down Flemington Road, he began picking through traffic and worked his way back towards the front. First place was well out of reach as a super effective "Pantone GT Sandbagging Technique" had been employed by the Maglia Rosa, so it would be nothing but a battle for second. Aboard his trusty steed John Daly, Adrian moved into silver on the bell lap then aimed to force a gap to the rider behind over the penultimate pinch past the bike wash zone – a move that would turn out to be unsuccessful as he finished third in a sprint finish.
Ben has visited the top step of the podium, but that was before the Soup Boys had colours. So we guess this is the first time we have had to wait back after all the days racing has concluded. Fitting then that podium presentations were being held at 4:20pm. Because he was still struggling to breathe after his attempt at a sprint, Adrian didn't blaze it for the boys back home, but did pick up a crisp bottle of Sam Miranda Prosecco to send home to mum for his efforts. In a word: thrilled.
IV: THE BIG 4
The Big 4 – nope not John Daly's four divorces, although he was relegated to the couch, but the name of our accomodation in North Wangaratta. Colloquially known as North Cedars, its just across the road from the home of the North Wangaratta Hawks Football Club who just a few hours before our arrival into town were handed down a paltry (by their standards this season) 156 point defeat. Whilst sport might not be in their skill set, above-par irrigation systems and providing us with the kind of country town caravan park hospitality you can come to expect from such trips are. We're talking bible on the bedside, combination oven cooktop (you know the microwaved sized ones), a fridge with nothing but a 250ml carton of UHT milk, and a smoke alarm that will get set off by shower steam, but isn't loud enough to be heard outside. Thanks for the short stay, John Daly sure appreciated being given the opportunity to rest his weary self.
V: MASTERS CLASS
In contrast to the previous days racing with late race starts that threw many riders body clocks out somewhat, the schedule for the state champs was much more aligned to race days gone by. Paddy was first up for the battle of Masters 1 at close to 11.30, aiming for the holeshot and very nearly getting it.
For Sunday, a few small changes had been introduced and an extra section of roughly 500 metres had been added to the parcours. This extra distance was almost entirely made up of creek crossings, with one greeting you as you made the freshly carved right hander that followed the Thule Hairpin. Taking something of a slightly askew horseshoe type shape, you would hit a few more creek crossings easily identifiable by the milling crowds before turning right again at (you guessed it) a creek crossing and back onto the rest of the course. Despite the difficult nature of this series of new additions (see: "shit, boring, I hate it!"), it certainly offered a wonderful backdrop for a bicycle race.
With each passing race category lines through creek crossings were being made much more pronounced, and corners were becoming even more chopped up as Adrian participated in a track walk. Having only arrived at Sam Miranda as practice whistled to a close, this would be all he could do to prevent himself going into the race totally "blind". Under the ever watchful eye of Mr Pink, persistent heckling in tow – the masters races (with Paddy coming home 5th), and juniors wrapped up, with the course well worn and ready for the elite's.
VI: ELITE WOMENS
Fortunately for those who only fronted up for Sunday's racing but still wanted to expand knowledge, the back end of the course still took racers through an educational journey of winemaking via dirt crit. Despite no plans to get a tape measure out and verify, this sector was possibly shortened and made more *technical* through the introduction of chicanes into the vines, bonus gutter (or baby creek) crossings and the cruelest one of all, the relocated esses. What had been the penultimate pinch Adrian tried to lock down second place with the day before was now at least a moderate case of switchback doping.
Could this actually be? It's almost impossible to believe. Correct us if we're wrong but this is the first time @bikesanddogs has manifested in both canine form and human form. Incredible. The weekend, from dinner and scrabble on Friday night to bistro dinners and the drive back to Melbourne was spent with this chapters name sake and his better half Katie. He scored two top 10 finishes in his races over the weekend, and Katie took home a B grade win on Saturday. It's only fitting that this chapter is dedicated to them and the wonderful canine friends we made trackside over the weekend.
VIII: C IS FOR COWARDS
Shortly after signing up for the state championships at 2330hours on Wednesday night, half an hour before the sign up deadline and 4 days before the race itself, a loud but very nervous laugh could be heard echoing through the streets of postcode 3032, and outwards to the edges of the Moonee Valley. Sign up had been successful, but checking the current start list with only 5 more minutes left to add to that had not been. A field of 18 riders were listed, most of whom rocked national bands, team colours, or had just recently ditched their sandbags and hit the big time. Despite the nervous lump in his throat, Adrian would take to the start line on Sunday in hope that they would be giving out participation awards. As he finished pinning his race numbers to his jersey he said his prayers and decided to pen a letter to his parents before what could be called a "coming of age race"...
Dear Mother & Father,
I'm writing this to you on the boot of Paddy's car, about to head out and face my moment of truth. I'm not sure if its nerves or the eight gel's I've had in the past 45 minutes, but I really struggled to keep it together long enough to pin on my race numbers.
Some of the other riders came up to me earlier today and told me stories of other lower division riders challenging the status quo and entering this showpiece even in years gone by. There seems to be one commonality...that is, that these riders were never heard from again. At first I didn't really believe them, but having taken a look at creek crossings – one of which I'm pretty sure is waist deep, I'm at least slightly worried that they might be telling the truth.
Earlier I was laying on the grass staring at the sky when I had what alcoholics refer to as a "moment of clarity". I don't know why I'm the only C grade racer in the field for todays race, it could be own stupidity, but maybe the C stands for cowards...I'm truly not sure. I've been told its just a way of using the alphabet to create divisions in the field, but why not just use numbers? No disrespect to my C grade brethren as each and every one of them hold a place in my heart, but where are they when it's time to stand up and be counted? A I said, maybe my entry is just proof of my stupidity. Maybe they had work today...or they got the flu, or busted a derailleur...do we need to have a Royal Commission into this?
I hope this letter finds you both well. I shall write again, however if you don't hear from me within 7 days and 7 nights it could be for multiple reasons. Reason 1: I have sunk to the bottom of the fast line at the biggest creek crossing. Sure it's only waist deep now, but a lap or two worth of power outputs from Paul van der Ploeg and I'm sure I will be requiring a snorkel. Reason 2: I forget to adhere to blue flags as I get lapped, and end up getting pushed into the dam by all the other riders in the race, possibly with some spectators there to assist. And finally reason 3: the most unlikely, but nonetheless possible. As I wait for the starting whistle I consume my ninth gel, my hands begin shaking uncontrollably, something that becomes permanent. They never stop, they have now become the norm, I will never be able to pick up my quill, sufficiently dip it into the inkwell and write letters to you, my fans and my enemies again. I sincerely hope that these outcomes do not come into play.
With love, your only son Adrian.
P.S Enjoy the prosecco.
Having hidden the letter in the glove box of Paddy's car in hope it would reach the Kiewa Valley, it was time to front up for the race of his life (to date). Considering the rollercoaster ride Adrian and John Daly had endured it was a fitting scenario to add to their soap opera careers of broken derailleurs, busted wheels and collected dust. As promised a 9th pre-race gel was consumed and race documentation duties handed over to Paddy for Until They Cut Me Down going hard out on the 35mm (as featured throughout this story) and Riley, currently free from the perils(?) of wearing gumboots and brewing coffee. Adrian went on to finish 3rd last, which when worded as him coming 13th after 3 DNS's doesn't sound too bad at all. Once his heart had a chance to drop below 200bpm for the first time in a bit over an hour, he offered us (as in you) a rare insight into what it's like racing well out of your league.
"As decided at the start of the race, if I could keep it together until Thule Hairpin on the first lap and still be within touching distance of second last I was counting it as a win. I managed to gain a spot on a Flanders Nemesis dude but after making a mistake (turning right instead of left) he passed me back and made a bit of a gap at the section of the course where I was struggling with all weekend. Once a gap was formed I thought to myself you know at least I made that dude work for his spot so I decided to kick back for the rest of the lap. It was as I was crossing the start/finish that I decided I would go for one more lap because I was having a lot of fun on the creek crossings, then call it a day to save me getting tangled up in lap traffic. As I came out of the wheel of death Hot Brad and Paddy were yelling about me being in front of Mason and whilst I didn't see how that was possible I figured I'd stay out and give it a smash. I don't know what happened with Mason but he never caught up, somehow I only got lapped once, and ended up reeling in and gapping old mate on the Flanders on the last lap. I'm all for getting out there and giving it a go, having some fun on two wheels but all you mad men can keep your hour long races. Give me forty minutes or give me death you know..."
IX: HUME HWY MIXTAPE DISC 2
We spoke fondly of the Hume Highway Mixtape during our last adventure up this amazing stretch of road, and now it's time to move on to disc 2. Still full of quality, family friendly tracks, but a disc that offers slight variety for a different kind of racing weekend.