WE DON'T READ THE HERALD SUN...TOUR

 

That’s because its 2017, you’re supposed to get your news from Buzzfeed, Pedestrian, Soup Boys and that. It’s also 2017, the apparent year of fake news. Therefore you won't be getting news from us #reputable. Delayed as to make sure everything was independently fact checked (most independent fact check agencies aren’t the most efficient organisations) to ensure complete accuracy and enjoyment for all, we bring you our coverage of the first (better) half of this years Jayco Herald Sun Tour. Why was the first half better? We were there of course.

 

I: THE COMMUTER CUP PROLOGUE

 

Pro conti teams flooded to the city to try their hand at the Southbank gauntlet in the form of the Jay-lmao Herald Sun Tour Prologue, and the Soup Boys had to bear witness to whether their title as champions on this stretch of pave was upheld.

As Melbourne welcomed February with its finest of conditions, and least hump-like hump days, Harry set out on a directeur sportif reconnaissance mission of the highest order. Equipped with a few leftover rolls of film from the Adelaide trip still fresh on everyone's minds and Adrian's Focus CX bike, he braved the combo of egg beaters and vans along the gruelling Maribyrnong bike path into the city.

 
 

The race had already started on arrival at the finish line, and with the previous years course record having been broken by the first handful of riders the day was looking more akin to a 2005 Lance Armstrong overtaking Jan Ulrich mid TT effort. This was no jaunt prologue.

 
 

In true Soup Boys fashion the track was walkedfrom west to east, stopping along the way as the infinite number of Melbourne cycling alumni were recognised amongst the crowds. #cornerlikecaseystoner was quite obviously on all the riders' minds, as the angles of attack were acute, and gutter rash (if that's a thing on bike wheels) must've been the hot topic amongst team mechanics.

 
 

As the sun set, fashions were critiqued, and fans dismounted their questionable viewing platforms, the final rider of the day, Chris Froome made his way down the course. Opting for obtuse cornering styles he followed Harry's lead and headed west towards the 3032.

 

II: THE RACE UP(?) FALLS PT. I

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Earlier that week, an Insta-DM arrived in the Soup Boys digital sphere. It would be none other than (deep inhale) former national champ, winner of Milan-San Remo, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Tour de France and Giro d’Italia stage winner and KOM (probably/hopefully) of his local climb, Mt Buller (exhale) Simon Gerrans. Kicking back with our man Wilko from VTWO/MCL he acknowledged the Kiewa Valley as a spiritual home of the Soup Boys, one of our original stomping grounds. He let us know that he knew we would be there, how much having the race in the area meant to us, and wanting us to know that he wanted us to know. And so it was aboard a VLine train bound for Wodonga that we sat hell upright, a single bead of cold sweat running crisply down the backs of our necks.

Stage one would depart from Wangaratta on a road paved in chalk art and to the fanfare of a few dozen school children. We would race them from the local chill out spot of Mongans Bridge, after sleeping in, sussing a local winery to find the cellar door was closed, and dipping our toes in the Kiewa River. Not much of a race as we would be meeting the race 16 flat kilometres away, while the pro’s would be at almost half race distance by the time they hit the bottom of Tawonga Gap (don’t fact check us on that).

 
 

We beat the race there by 15 minutes or so, enough to position ourselves for prime spectating of the #cornerlikecaseystoner clinic that would be going down at the exit of the Mt Beauty side of Tawonga Gap. The left hand, off camber corner held greater significance once we caught wind that Soup Boys Cult Hero Jacob Kauffmann was in the breakaway (as we suspected when a NSWIS rider was being referred to up front). To a chorus of squeaking under brakes, the race ventured north to Mongans Bridge before turning around and making waves to the top of Falls. The following day however they would get the whole nine yards, taking the same wonderful back road to the mouth(?) of the valley, where they would bask in the glory of the rather full Lake Hume.

 
 

As for the Soup Boys? It was time to participate in our own little race. Possibly overcompensating with a 30km headstart – our mission was to get as far up Falls Creek as we could, Howmans Gap would be nice, anything past Bogong would be considered a bonus. And so it was on.

 

III: AN E-BOOK ON BECOMING THE FUTURE SERBIAN NATIONAL CHAMP

 

This is the part where we introduce you to our friend Novak Sojic, but for context we must continue the tradition of including a free e-book in this races coverage every year, and tell his entire story up until the moment he left his 1990’s Benz, and rolled down the street past the Mt Beauty BMX track.

 
 

In the mid 2000’s, Adrian was most of the way through a decade long stint playing football (soccer) for Twin City Wanderers – a bargain bin West Ham only difference being that they were premiership merchants. Novak played for Twin City’s main rival Wodonga Diamonds. While direct contact was never made, there was an awareness of presence and a level of mutual respect shared between the two King SK’s. Some years later, Adrian having since moved to Wagga, then Melbourne – they were reunited through a mutual friend who pulled together a crew for a “footy night with the boys”. It was here that Novak began an introduction to bikes. Putting together an old Malvern Star that was about 4 or 5 sizes too small (Novak reaches just shy of 200cm) was the first step, downloading Strava was the second. Riding around Albury/Wodonga here and there was the third, and come 2015 – the Soup Boys yet to spread its wildfire-like drivel on the internet, were in Bright to complete a photographic project for Tourism North East Victoria. To ride 1000km in a week for the #Festive500. For the record we chose to spend the final day by the pool getting wasted and listening to Kanye, so we came up 100km short, but the photos we came out with laid the foundation to what you see now. Back to more important shit...

 
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It was in the lead up that Novak saw us getting #hyphy and dropped Adrian a line, wondering if he could tag along at some stage. Despite a lack of experience when it came to climbing, he really wanted to give something alpine a shot. Adrian was wary, but saw the potential in him, and knew he was athletically capable. Thus, the decision was made that he would join the Soup Boys in riding up Mt Buffalo.

 
 

The morning of he pulled into the carpark of our idyllic hotel, pulling his bike from the boot of his car (now upgraded from ill-fitted Malvern Star to correctly fitted Specialized Allez). Rocking vans, Adidas shorts and a buttoned up shirt that would allow perfect transition to the riverside BBQ party afterwards, he rolled out of Bright and on the road to Mt Buffalo with us in the early hours. Along the lower slopes we conducted sing-a-longs and shared stories, only pausing to get in formation behind Novak as we passed other cyclists on the way up. We reached half way and broke for a little for food, shade, and to thank him for essentially towing us up the mountain. Twenty metres later, a couple of spokes fell out of Dean’s set of wheels, meaning he had to head back to Bright to put on his spare set (#smart and #pro). This technically meant that Novak outlasted Jonesy up Buffalo but we will let the 2 fight it out another day.

We continued on upwards, into the final twisted section of the climb. It was here that a now slightly more weary Novak gave us the go-ahead to head up to the top and wait for him. With food, water, and form looking good enough to cruise to the top we looked forward to meeting him up there. Only things would take a turn south.

Alex practiced his Baby Freezes, both he and Adrian growing cold and weary with the wait by the intersection that lies at the centre of the Mt Buffalo plateau. With each cyclist popping their heads over the final crest, we hoped it was Novak, but almost every time we were left waiting longer. That was until the last time, when he came flying down onto the plateau, bright red bike glimmering in the sunshine. Shaking his head through combined sore legs and Ryder Hesjedal-ing he passed us and ripped a solid #cornerlikecaseystoner on his way to an iced coffee at the Dingo Dell cafe.

 
 

He had finished his first alpine climb, and how he got to reap the rewards. While hella lean, the dude its hovering among the clouds in reference to his height, thus naturally he has a bit of weight to him. And as it would turn out, balls. He didn’t need, and his knees didn’t need any introduction to a bit of scraping along the tarmac as he held his own as we snaked down the mountainside, overtaking a couple of pesky Subaru wagons on the way. Rolling back into the hotel carpark, he spoke of a soreness never experienced before – although it was described as being akin to an entire pre-season in 3 hours. He was officially welcomed to cycling.

Fast forward a cutla years. Efforts had been made for round 2, however mechanicals, family holidays and nights out got in the way. Finally, in early February while the Jayco Herald Sun Tour was in town, the stars well and truly aligned. Arranged late the night before, Adrian and Ben would leave Mongans Bridge post chilling. They would catch the race in Tawonga at approximately 12 o clock. Once the race would come and go, a text message via iPhone would make its way to Novak, hopefully somewhere in Mt Beauty. That hopeful somewhere would be next door to the BMX track, the home turf of a number of local legends like Max Kreuzer, the van der Ploeg’s and the Panozzo’s, one of which was about to tear our legs off with broken spokes and a sore body. As we left the intersection of the Tawonga Gap and Kiewa Valley Highway, Novak was given the instructions to head on up to Falls. With a head start of about 15 minutes, we would catch him at some stage but we all wondered when. Passing Flour + Water and their famous lit-mo, guesses hopefully more accurate than those made post Willunga were made. Given our encyclopaedic knowledge of the local roads, specifically the Falls Creek climb which could be considered the home climb of the Soup Boys Victorian Division – we anticipated we would make contact between Bogong Village and Junction Spur. Our end goal? Making it to Howmans Gap, but anything beyond Bogong would be considered a bonus. And so we began our chase.

 

IV: THE RACE UP(?) FALLS PT. II

 

Immediately Chris Panozzo of Full Factory Privateer National Champ fame ripped our legs off along the lower slopes, undulating our way towards Bogong. Gooda of VTWO/MCL had passed us along the Kiewa Valley Highway, and during waiting-for-the-race-to-show-up discussions at Tawonga Gap, he let us know he would capture some imagery of us roasting ourselves in the name of prime bicycle race spectating. Described as “nothing but business” he captured some hell pro photos of us climbing our way up the mountain side, before his own work responsibilities beckoned and he legged it to the top.

 
 

We had passed through Bogong Village without sight of Novak, and then as the 3 of us came back together just beyond Junction Spur, we pondered if we had underestimated our friends stamina. Had he secretly been on some mad diet and training regime? Who knows. But knowing we would reach our desired destination, or the top if we really wanted to we continued on at an okay, but not out-and-out pace. With each corner we searched the upper slopes for the bright red bike of the future Serbian National Champ, and it wasn’t til 3 or 4 corners short of Turnback that we finally caught a glimpse. Rocking his team issue sneakers and Adidas shorts, the rest of himself draped in the iconic Tinkoff Saxo camo training kit, we rolled up next to him, simply cruising in the shade. With plenty of time to spare, the four of us agreed to pull over briefly for #localknowledge refreshment. It would only be 1km further up the road where we would officially pull up stumps outside Ben and Adrian’s Year 8 school camp spot of Howmans Gap, described as the “most likely place shit was going to go down”.

 
 

To hopefully bring that prediction a little closer to fruition we prayed to the only thing we deemed worthy at the time, a secret vending machine ($2 cokes btw). In a way the spot would turn out to be primo, however Damien Howson of Orica Scott would fuck with us, and make an even better move 150m out from the finish to take the stage and the overall lead. But with a perfect view straight up the hill past the resort gates we cheered through the riders in their small groups or bonking solo. While honorable mentions of course must go to Howson for the stage win, Kauffmann for being in the breakaway and being a total SK, local legends Timmy Guy and Jesse Featonby for their excellent rides up the hill, it would be Michael Hepburn who would take the MVP award, getting wavy with it as they rounded the bend to our yells of encouragement. We offer no cash prize, this MVP award is simply digital.

 
 

We continued our way to the top, dropping some pro’s and spoiling the day for a number of #official photographers who seeing a group of riders repping the same kits scrambled to get their Canon 5d mk ii and 24-105 f4 ready, only to realise we weren’t pros, just a bunch of good looking young, lean teens.

 
 

“Hey! Hey! There’s a fucking race going on.”

Danny van Poppel, wearing the leaders jersey and getting angry at us. Turns out we had accidentally misidentified the sag wagon and sat ourselves in the middle of the race up(?) Falls. Said with such viciousness we aren’t sure if its because he was slightly more than 20 minutes down on Howson and counting, or that he couldn’t hold our wheels. Not a good day for Danny Van P in any regard. And by dropping him, does this mean we should be pro? Either way we managed to get to the top just in time to catch the podium celebrations, take in the view and congratulate Novak for making it to the top of his second alpine climb. To ensure maximum reward, we picked a gap in traffic and rocket shipped it back to Mt Beauty, Novak leading by example with a single, 30km aero tuck. Even on those troublesome return uphills. Hell of a way to pay us our commission.

 
 

Editors note: we did have a few more handfuls worth of photography to accompany this epic tale, only that corruption is rife through our SD card ranks thus replaced with lifelike, hand drawn photographs. We now take this opportunity to reach out to any sales reps/marketing folk who work for specialist SD cards, that is – cards that can handle the kind of fire we be shooting. Please drop us a line, otherwise we will be forced to #shootfilmstaybroke.

 

V: FEED ZONES

 

As if Mount Beauty didn’t have enough to offer already, our day would be capped off with a park up at the local bakery. Donuts, Kiewa milks of all the flavs and a few multi-packs of assorted drinks would be either consumed, or purchased for not-too-distant consumption. A moment of sugar filled reflection would be shared and we parted ways, most heading back to Albury/Wodonga, Chris probably heading off to Everest Mt Buffalo.

 
 

Ben and Adrian on their bikes, and Novak in his Benzo cruised back down to Mongan’s Bridge as the sun set on the day. Drinks purchased at the local supermarket were buried well within the riverbed by Novak as a thanks for chaperoning him up at least some of the climb. Credit where credits due, he outshone us all on this particular day. We sat, stood, and re-baptised ourselves in the Kiewa river, drinks constantly in hand, white clawed lobsters native to the area chasing our bare toes. The cold waters recovering us far better than any Saturday morning swim at St Kilda. We would be ready and raring to go for the following day.

 

VI: THE SOUP BOYS PRESS CLUB MOTO

 

For the Soup Boys Press Club second official outing, and after the exhausting human powered efforts of the previous day – we traded in our official media passes and hi vis vests for a Troy Lee Designs x Tie Dye collaboration of sorts. Those media passes fetched us quite a bit on the local black market as we were able to spend the pocket money on a pannier worth of hella drinks. San Pellegrino, Bundaberg flav’s and a couple of icy cold Kiewa flavoured milks would see us through the day. Armed with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the local roads taken in by today’s stage through years of riding, or laying upon them during warm summer nights – we anticipated that we would witness, in person, the race approximately 6 times. We would spend the day aboard 800cc worth of Beems, all kitted out by Ben in the sheds of Greenbox Race Engineering. Heated hand grips would provide warmth on the brisk dash down the Kiewa Valley Highway into Mt Beauty for the race start, while also keeping the hands ready to assist in the ripping of mad skids. Kitted out with crash bars, a bash plate and guards for headlights and hands we would be riding in safety, unless of course a stray bull found its way onto Gundowring Rd and into our path. Purchased to travel the globe, but mainly for Ben to commute to work on and take advantage of primo undercover park ups, it would be its first outing unofficially covering a bicycle race. And just like that, the Soup Boys Press Club left the 1970’s well behind, and entered the modern era of photo journalisme for the days stage of the Sun Tour.

 

VII: PARC FERME

 

Signs scattered most of the local stores in central Mt Beauty stating that they would be closed for the half hour that the race would depart. A small town with a rich cycling history and community, everyone and most of their dogs were in the main town square to mill with riders, and see them off for another warm day out on 2 wheels.

 
 

Winding our way through Parc Ferme we caught a brief glimpse of Soup Boys Cult Hero Jacob Kauffmann sporting his suitably green jersey as leader of the points classification, and while much of the focus was on the Orica Scott riders – a given since there were people like Mitch Docker and Esteban Chaves offering up autographs and poses, we went in search of some of our local heroes. Jesse Featonby and Timmy Guy both put in solid rides up Falls the day before (the latter warming up to go one better on the final stage as it would turn out) and both were kind enough to hold brief conversations with us in between orders being barked away by less-muscular-than-ours DS’s.

 
 

And so with half the population of the entire Kiewa Valley (probably), and a couple of drones up top for good Soup Boys measure, the race was a-go to the sounds of cheering children and locals. And it was a-go for us, at least after a stop at the bakery.

 

VIII: STAGE THREE

 

The plan was relatively simple. They were on two, human powered wheels. We were on two, 800cc powered wheels. And while they had a clearly defined course throughout the day, remember that we had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the local roads. Anyway we got caught in post-grand-depart-single-road-out-of-town traffic and missed our first photo opportunity at Monaghan’s Bridge. Just. But never fear, it was round 2 at Keegans Bridge where we finally got our shit together.

 
 

As the race rolled by, we saw the beginning of what would become a rather troublesome break. A few riders flew off the front and held about 30 seconds to a peloton so pre-occupied that they must have been debating which was the out and out best offering from the Mt Beauty Bakery (it’s the large ass donuts).

 
 

Our next stop down the road would be between Dederang and Kiewa at Boyds Road. However thanks to some strategically placed road works (not so different from boom-gate-gate) we missed that opportunity and continued on to Kergunyah. The break now sat at a few minutes, and had grown in size from a doubles team (2) to an ultimate frisbee side (7 & god we can’t believe that reference was all we could get from google). Either way, even with a larger group working away on the front, and an ever growing gap, Gooda did not care for the breakaway as it flew past him by mere metres. We stuck around planning the rest of our race viewing strategy as we feared the break would cause a major pain in our ass when it came to road closures and us being an unofficial press club. Watching Orica Scott continue to drive the peloton forward gave us a glimmer of hope that things might turn in our favour but we weren’t holding out breath.

 
 

Neither was Adrian, as for the second time in an hour, he gave up hope of copping a free pro bidon to a kid who looked willing to kill either himself or others for free, secondhand professional cycling merchandise. (See Above).

 
 

Having spent the last 2 days deep in the Kiewa Valley, the pelotons final memories before hitting the Bryants Gap climb (which for some reason wasn’t given KOM status) will forever be a wild crowd of iPad holdeurs. Heading down towards the Sandy Creek Football Oval, both the spiritual and actual home of the Tallangatta & District Football/Netball League finals, the riders would summit Bryants Gap to wondrous views of Lake Hume. Road closures meant that we wouldn’t be experiencing either the sprint, or the delicacies of Knighty’s in Tallangatta, instead taking in a brief Corner Like Casey Stoner clinic coming past the Tallangatta Rifle Club. If we were to give the award to cleanest Cornering Technique, it would officially go to the SRAM support moto-bici. However, the fact that the entire peloton dealt with the heinous and hidden bump right on the apex of the final turn to Tallangatta with nothing more than an “ah fuck” means they all get a prize. Chapeau!

 
 

After the race made its way into Tallangatta, we weighed up our options yet again. Despite Orica Scott pulling a Quick Step at any Belgian race, the break was growing and growing. We monitored the sporadically updated twitter account for the race (not like we can judge for being hot and cold) to find it would be 5 minutes by the time we saw the race again. And so, observing the Ultimate Frisbee team sized breakaway extend its margin heading into Kiewa we compiled a list of shit you can do in 5 minutes.

 
 
  • A hella solid work out, something that will have you unable to use your body for the rest of the week. Talk to our DS Harry, he can will sort you out.
  • Cook a pot of pasta (Spaghetti No. 3) according to San Remo’s package guidelines, if you truly bring the heat.
  • Savour a 600mL Kiewa flavoured milk. Like REALLY savour.
  • Watch Fabian Cancellara hit 1,450 watts on the Muur to gap Tom Boonen on his way to a stunning victory in the 2010 Ronde van Vlaanderen.
  • Listen to Das Racist’s “Return To Innocence”.
  • 5 minute effort at 800 watts.
  • Strava KOM the 1 in 20, in Harry’s Barina. You might even have time to rest your weary legs at Café Debeaumarchais for a minute or two.
  • Watch the Stage Two breakaway of the 2017 Sun Tour.
 
 

Back to it. Soup Boys Cult Hero Jacob Kauffmann took the sprint outside Adrian’s primary school, and moved through the town of Tangambalanga and into Kiewa to cop a feed right outside the Kiewa General Store. While we continued to argue our legitimacy as an unofficial Press Club to a Moto Scoutsman, the peloton came by the Cayman mural of the Kiewa Valley Swimming Pool, still 5 minutes behind. Hoping that they would reign the breakaway in sooner rather than later, we tacked onto the back of that same kid (possibly older than Adrian) who again, was willing to kill or be killed in the name of secondhand pro team merch. Musettes lined the road out of the Kiewa General Store feed zone, and so some slamming of brakes to duck into nearby gutters took place. We managed to avoid any incidents right through to Yackandandah, taking an undisclosed* fire trail up to Stanley (*we may be using aforementioned fire road for future surprises).

 
 

We parked up at the top of the KOM for the day, amongst orchards and friends in Stanley. While not climbing to the summit of Mt Stanley itself, the climb coming off the road to Myrtleford has stung many a Soup Boy in the tail, and we didn’t expect any different treatment to be shown towards the pros.

 
 

Howson dropped his chain at the bottom and was led back up by his team, only outdone by the Korda Mentha Team Time Trial showcase. Jacob Kauffmann, having spent the day further galvanising his place as points leader and Soup Boys Cult Hero had dropped back, but remained with the race leaders. Vuvuzelas and clapping got each rider to the meet and greet with Scott McGrory at the top and closer to the finish in Beechworth just a handful of (mostly) downhill kilometres away. Tucked in with traffic and stray spectators on bikes, we took in the race right to the finish line from right behind the sag fire truck.

 
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IX: THE WRAP UP

ODOMETERS
Wednesday Bike: 23km
Thursday Bike: 101km
Friday Moto: 314km

NOSTALGIA PLAYLIST
Sofi Tukker - Drinkee
Jay Z & Kanye West - Clique
Flume ft. Kucka - Numb and Getting Colder
The Streets - Fake Streets Hats
The Datsuns - MF From Hell
Bloc Party - Helicopter
The Strokes - You Only Live Once

OVERHEARD
Spectator: "Can I walk up the road for a better look?"

Copper: "Nah sorry, you'll have to watch from here." (bottom of Tawonga Gap).

S: "I might watch from the traffic island then."

C: "You better stand on the inside. If they crash they'll go everywhere, and you don't want a carbon frame to the head aye!"

The Beechworth Providore was the site of our Soup Boys Official Wrap Up. In the company of portraits of the von Trapp fam, and with 300km well in the bank aboard our legendary steed, we dined on iced lattes and panini’s all the while unpacking the few days we had just experienced. Gripes with some of the scouts unperturbed by our attempted bribes, our annoyance at the effectiveness of the days breakaway, our love for Jacob Kauffmann coming back to bite us on the ass. And a joint smouldering over everyones Garmin files screwing up thus cancelling would-be personal bests up Falls Creek. It had been a suitably eventful couple of days in the spiritual home, and agreement was made that we hope to see it venture back to “the hood” some time soon.


X: LEAVE PASS RIDE

 

Weary and well worn on the Vline train home to Melbourne, Adrian rocked back and forth on carriage C (the one with the buffet cart) all on his lonesome, 10% battery remaining. It was rolling in to Wangaratta station that he caught a glimpse of a familiar pink, then a familiar yellow. These were soon matched by a series of recognisable voices, and moments later Gene appeared. The crew from the latest edition of the Leave Pass Ride were all aboard. Moving further back into the train as to claim an entire section as our own, we made wraps, discussed the marketability of Pilsner, Ale, and Stout gels, and heard from wise sage Alby who, delving deep into how Froomey treated this as a part of his training block, provided his 2 minute analysis of the Tour to fans back home via Ryan Flynn TV. The talking would only stop once the buffet cart re-opened just beyond Euroa, and when it did a mad rush took place as we fought for the finest in microwaved fare. The joys of train travel.