TOUR DOWN UNDER '16: THE PILGRIMAGE SOUTH
In our short, humble history there have been days that have gone down in Soup Boys folklore, for good or bad. The pilgrimage to Willunga was always going to be a big day, but none of us expected a day like this.
I: (NOT SO SECRET) PLANZ
This time the planz for the day were not only completely non-secret but more disjointed than they'd ever been. Whilst we had already decided on the MAAP/Treadly ride to Willunga, iMessage and "Soup Boys Chat", both places normally filled with non stop nonsense were awfully quiet the night before. As we rolled in to Ebenezer Plaß at 8am for the roll out half an hour later, phones weren't being answered, messages not responded to but positively plans were coming together.
- Give the MAAP/Treadly ride a head start. How long for we weren't quite sure.
- Find Jack. Was he in the city somewhere? At Le Tour Village? Still drunk in a park? All were equally probable scenarios.
- Climb Bel Air Rd, or Windy/Windy Point. A week in and the guys from Melbourne still couldn't remember which Windy it was.
- Stop at Clarendon Bakery, then ditch Toops Hill for the tarmac climb because f*ck that.
- Watch the race somewhere, somehow, but make sure we spend quality time at our post stage after party set up.
III: BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS
Possibly the most important Breakfast of Champions considering the distance that would be covered that day, would actually be anything but a "Breakfast" for "Champions" and more of a, get caffé latte's and tarts from the glass cabinet on account of the already unapologetically French owner now being an unapologetically French with fifty caffé lattes to make guy. We still like him, the caffé was good, as were the tarts, both consumed whilst sitting on the kerb across the street, half ignoring the course description and welcoming message by Sam from Treadly. As the caffeine kicked in and gave us small glimpses of life, we began discovering that each of us had been out way past our bedtimes, with 2, 3 and 4 hours being (generously) quoted as number of hours slept.
IV: LIKE BIRDS, MIGRATING SOUTH
Starting on Ebenezer Plaß, the site of Treadly Bike Shop and Hey Jupiter, two of our staples this week, the ride would head south along Bel Air Rd, taking in the Windy Point climb, and snake its way south to the town of Willunga, arriving at the top of the climb. As we were strengthened by local knowledge of countless back road trips to the South Australian Riviera town, we opted to wait and see if Jack would either answer his phone, or end up alive. It gave everyone else on the ride the opportunity to gain a head start on us, something we rarely offer to the opposition (yes we are aware this was a social ride, but there are no second place getters in life). As it had been well over half an hour and we had yet to get in contact with Jack, we took Unley Rd out of town, calling the coroners office, and checking a number of parks known for their underage drinking along the way out.
The remainder of the transfer ride went a little something like this:
- Climb Bel Air, big dog rules only.
- Take short cut off Bel Air Rd upon Finn's recommendation. Turns out that road is dead straight, and also dead steep.
- Witnessing a motorist making his annoyance at having to detour around a felled cyclist known verbally.
- #cornerlikecaseystoner contests on every descent, fortunately we are all complete pro's at it.
- A climb that we can only describe as the first 10km of Dinner Plain, both in gradient, but more so in road surface which in (most) parts is so bad that getting off and walking the bike would be better.
- Adrian swearing his head off at being stuck behind a group of hubbards on the descent into Clarendon for the second year running. Maybe third time lucky he will be able to give it a red hot go.
- The "Church of the Day" being the old Clarendon Methodist Church. Photo's of the building itself impossible on account of a woman picking up hard rubbish for herself parking her ute with accompanying trailer right outside.
- Head sized donuts courtesy of Clarendon Bakery, modeled by Lewis.
- Lewis complaining the entire climb out of Clarendon about his doughy belly.
- Getting passed by what could be described as an elite group of a certain harbourside cities cyclists on the flat, only to get stuck in what appeared to be a trackstand competition every single time the gradient rose.
- Alex chucking a few one man bunch sprints along McLaren Flats Rd.
- Punctures at the bottom of climbs.
- Taking the rolling hills of the Willunga back roads to the top of the hill, singing Creed, Whitney Houston and Das Racist along the way as the newly announced acapella group (to support our World Tour team for 2016).
Once we had arrived at the bottom of the Willunga Hill climb – which is to say we arrived in town, we caught wind that Jack was solo-ing it from Adelaide to Willunga to catch the action with us. Considering we were all feeling every last one of the sixty or so kilometres ridden, we applauded jack on his efforts if not literally in his presence, in the back of our minds. Upon his arrival the focus immediately turned to what the pro's were about to do as they entered town, which was feed ourselves. For those of you that have been to the stage in Willunga you know that this is a task which is near to impossible to achieve without waiting an eternity in any sort of line.
VI: OLD WILLUNGA HILL STREET PARTY
We can quote the commentator Dave McKenzie on saying that he estimated about 100,000 people being up on the hill this afternoon as the race came through. We weren't currently in the presence of numbers man Dean, so we were unable to confirm after we kept losing track of our count whenever we got to sixty nine. That being said, the crowds were big, and big early in the day. It had the vibe of one massive street party, with plenty of people if not absolutely everybody in good spirits. Ultimate roadside chilling, @bikesanddogs and vascular cameramen were in full effect on this afternoon as the race would head through town a couple of times, hit the climb once, then a second time for a "summit finish" if that is the correct term to use for riding 3km to the top of a hill not mountain. With the DJ on Bike Exchange corner spinning beats mad enough to rival the Rapha DJ, we ate bananas, rang cowbells and talked smack as we listened to the cheering getting louder and louder as the riders made their way up the hill. Kids with go-pro's on their heads ran along side the riders as they came through, some much more motivated to get to the top that the others. On the second time through, Richie Porte came steaming past in the lead in a scene that mixed with the heat would have certainly given Crikey Cadel a minor stroke. Porte would go on to take the stage win, once again proving that he is in fact "the next big thing in Australian cycling." Much further down the road, riders who had worked all day for their team mates trickled through one by one, followed by the sprinters, and tailed by those who had completely boxed it. Gerrans held onto his overall lead heading into the final stage (a mere criterium) and Porte had won at WIllunga for the third time in a row, but now the real skill would be on show as we all attempted to descend the hill back into town, something that can only be described as a long series of small miracles.
VII: "AFTER" "PARTY"
Earlier in the week Lewis got amongst the hook ups for a post stage chill out spot before we would have to hit the bike path home to Adelaide. Down in the township of Willunga, and just a few hundred metres from the bottom of the climb we were greeted by a scene that made all of us just fall short of weeping tears of joy. A balcony shaded by a big ass umbrella, a BBQ, daybeds, astro turf and a view that took in the vineyards of McLaren Vale, and beyond that, the coast. We had been on the brink of hunger flatting for the entire afternoon, so as we rolled into this magical scene you could feel the morale slowly rise. BBQ'ed food was gorged upon, Adrian did a beer run for the boys, naps in the shade were taken and banter was back in full swing. With the sun slowly beginning to set, and Adelaide a sixty or so kilometre ride away we thought it best to start heading home via the nearest possible service station for coke and snacks.
Despite our short history, there have been rides which have been etched in Soup Boys folklore. Alex and Adrian's 45ºc century down the coast after work, Zeke's birthday ride in 2015, Alex's first ever climb – Mt Hotham on a steel bike with a standard to 23t cassette, all rides which we will no doubt relive for you all in time. Despite the long day, the gaping holes that occupied our stomachs for most of the day, we hit the bike bath just out of Willunga and headed for home, rolling turns along a route that Jack described as being "pretty tough for a bike path". Despite the rear punctures, the hot weather, lack of food during the pre-balcony chill age and fatigue from a week of riding in the hot sun, there were nothing but smiles and laughter as we tore South Rd a new one with a 60km paceline for a few kilometres back into town. It was days like this that epitomise why we started the SBC in the first place. Sure we take the piss out of each other, out of nearly everything about cycling, but as has happened many times in the past, and will continue to do so – when it comes to the crunch we are there to get each other home through the most ridiculous shit. There was no Good, Bad & Ugly for the days adventures, because everything that was bad, or ugly turned out to be really good at the end of it all. This afternoon we took another ride to pop into the history books of the SBC.