VICXS: GETTIN' ALPINE WIT' IT
Adrian spent the lead up days practicing on his parents muddy, rocky driveway. Almost the entire Admiral.cc crew made the journey north east, and even the wonderful guys from Treadly CX made the trek across from Adelaide. Set in arguably the two best valleys in the country (Kiewa & Alpine) rounds 2 & 3 of the Victorian Cyclocross series promised so much, and delivered in spades of euro vibes and good times.
Nothing can possibly prep you for the pre-race weekend warm up than rushing to get your Vline train out of town only to discover you are an hour early. You spend that hour silently rage scrolling through your social media feeds and watching a group of guys hammer around Broadmeadows station on dirt bikes (the motorised kind). When you hop aboard, its like entering another decade, one from the distant past. The plus side is, its cost effective(ish) but is a rollercoaster ride of emotions particularly comprised of tremendous eyerolls. Remind us to add “Team Bus” to our list of items for our Future World Tour Team.
II: THE KIEWA VALLEY
The spiritual home of dreams, and acting as one hell of a picturesque gateway to Victoria’s alpine resort Falls Creek; the Kiewa Valley has long stood as the breeding ground of champions. It was the highway that runs through the middle where Adrian first learnt how to chuck bunchies during summer evenings on the long straight stretch of road that was at the top of his driveway. Ben also grew up close by in the much more metropolitan township of Wodonga, but you can never forget that in the valleys true geographical heart, Dederang’s greatest treasure Ben McEvoy of Hawthorn Football Club Ruckman fame spent his formative years plying his early trade. Kiewa Milk, Gundowring Ice Cream amongst other artisan delicacies call the valley home, and its no wonder they take such pride in the fact, with the Kiewa Valley flowing through the entire valley from the snowfields to the Murray River.
* As we travel far and wide across this great land of ours, you can expect further postcard series delving into, and showcasing the wonder and awe of our bicycle racing locales. No this isn't where we suddenly branch off into cycling tourism... *
III: BIG HILL MTB PARK
If you didn't know any better, you would almost miss Big Hill Mountain Bike Park as you climb your way out of Mount Beauty. The town sits at the southern end of the Kiewa Valley, where mountains leading up to Falls Creek and beyond (Omeo) stand in the way. The days previous contained scattered showers, and the timing of the event – on the bridge between autumn and true winter meant that there were plenty of leaves afoot, certainly more treacherous than the mud that lay dormant below, soon to emerge. Whilst we were treated with what can only be described as "hashtag true hashtag Euro conditions" it was once the warm up laps began that the devious plot of course designer Liam Panozzo finally began coming to fruition. Anything even slightly uphill became a battle on two feet, leaves, sticks and mud, or a combination of all three were clogging up bikes in every kind of way, and some hella off camber sections were causing some people real problems all before the racing began proper.
IV: VICXS ROUND 2
Spectating began during the Women's A & B Grade races whilst the course was still safe from being red flagged (pffft like that was ever going to happen, this isn't NASCAR). Some close quarters racing, the kind we have come to expect from most of the women's races we've managed to watch was on show, despite the fact the Men's C, B and Open races had half torn it to shreds, as had the intermittent showers. Whilst we were short an airhorn for there was no seafarers store in a town approximately 4 and a half hours from the nearest sea, however we were graced with the presence of an actual seafarer possible ballerina and/or angel armed with nothing but a sense of a fun and a bright orange Vuvuzela. Surely it's been mentioned before, but this glorious musical instrument really needs more widespread acceptance into the cyclocross spectating community. Regardless, old mate's heckling and music tones were enough to brighten up a tough section of the course. Tough because there wasn't really an escape from his...encouragement.
⇑ We have to give an honourable shoutout to the crew at Treadly CX for their enthusiasm on course at Mt Beauty. Call us lazy if you want, but the last thing we would be wanting to do after driving all the way from Adelaide is race bikes bright an early the next day. Hell we've flown to Adelaide and wanted to spend the rest of the day napping. So dedicated to the cause of being rad, Lana Adams even managed to snare herself her first of two podiums for the weekend, powered by her bright blue Giant TCX, incredible endurance, and the encouraging screams of Jake. You can read his write up of the entire weekend right here.
⇓ It seemed as though the men's race was going to be more of a washout than the previous grades, something that would seem unfair until you remember by being in A Grade some, or at least most are significantly better at cyclocross racing than say those (us) in C Grade. That being said, conditions, the field and the parcours made sure that it was a tough race regardless as a man in a Sesame Street skinsuit (+10 points) had a red hot start, challenging home town hero Paul VDP out of the starting gates before "The Wall" (it might not be called that but we are calling it that) sorted out the field somewhat on Lap 1 before it fast turned into a one man race.
This weekend was also the first public sighting of the MAAP / Speedvagen CX team. Their bikes emblazoned with a lil' unicorn emblem clearly brought strange phenomena to the weekend, such as team barista Riley up a tree, in gumboots, with $10 000AUD worth of camera in his hands. With kits that stand out quite easily in an already bright peloton, they were always scoring that TV time, particularly up the front of Men's A grade with Garry Millburn on both days.
As previously mentioned, the race largely became a one man show as he who shall remain un-named for the sake of spoilers shot off the front after a few laps to bring it home by at least a minute (we weren't counting). It did mean however as a consolation prize, we were treated to a battle for 2nd and 3rd between Garry Millburn & Paul van der Ploeg over some final few laps filled with tight racing. Eventually it was the former that came out in second place.
SPOILER REVEALED: The winner was Chris Jongewaard, aka J-Blood, aka the guy who the following day whilst some remained hesitant at "The Creek" (again called that for the sake of no real spoilers) would demand that we "just ride the fucking thing". Good strat,it clearly works for him. Dominant victory.
V: POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE
Despite toiling through the longest forty minutes ever recorded spent out on course, Adrian still undertook his official media duties during the post race press conference. As if his day wasn't disappointing enough, this unflattering photo was snapped at the precise moment he was told the caffé latte van (see above) didn't accept Amex. A small snippet of his press conference transcript can be read below, before he stormed out breaking a microphone and saying something about going to the bakery to bury himself in donuts and Kiewa milk.
VI: BRIGHT CX
If Mt Beauty CX was a day 5 SCG test wicket, surely Bright CX on a crisp Sunday morning was a Lords(?) First Day(?) Wicket(?). We don't know, we're bicycle racing fans first and foremost, cricket fans somewhere around ninthmost. But what we are saying is, the parcours, if you can call it that in the discipline of cyclocross was premium. Almost everything you could imagine being squeezed into 3 or so kilometres worth of course was there. Steps, a creek crossing, a BMX track cameo, another creek crossing, an incredible amount of #cornerlikecaseystoner opportunities through various technical, twisty sections, a chance to skid it out in the Equestrian Ring of the Bright Pony Club, log jumps and a football ground. Incredible. Courses like this should require minimum racing time of 1.5 hours for C Grade, more for the higher grades. Too much fun to be had, who cares if it gets dark?
VII: A PHOTOGRAPHIC GUIDE TO ACHIEVING RACE WEIGHT
Choosing to avoid the post race press conference on a Sunday, for one would not want to sin on the sabbath, Adrian opted to instead maintain his race weight during the practice session nestled between the Men's B and the Women's race. A finely tuned animal such as the one seen in the photo below only comes through strict dedication to a diet rich in carbs (bun), protein (25c frankfurter of questionable content), vegetables (tomato sauce) and whatever nutritional benefit mustard claims ownership of. Incredible to think that just 24 hours previous, Riley of climbing trees in gumboots fame was shocked at the level of lean-ness Adrian presented. Secret unlocked.
VIII: BRIGHT CX A's & B's
Bikes we're meticulously cleaned with the precision nozzle of a high power pressure washer, Ron sat in awe of Andy Rogers (understandable), and there was an awfully stylish American guy hanging about before his race in A Grade. Soon Mason replaced his bright yellow Mavic shoes for thongs (a Darwin thing), Jeff Curtes the stylish American man returned to his rollers beneath the MAAP / Speedvagen tent to resume his warm up, whilst Ron and Andy began their journey around the course in the search of #content. Fortunately the Women's A & B grade races, with the soulful screams of encouragement from Jake guiding us towards the action, were up to the task of getting that ball rolling.
⇑ Climb the side of a table top, hit a few whoops, berm, hit a few more whoops, berm, whoops, puddle, whoops, puddle, whoops, big ass puddle. And that was the BMX track. Fun, but potentially dicey of an early morning with a combination of leaves, mud, sticks and rocks following you along the racing line.
⇓ Because this is a photograph you would never get the full story, but at Soup Boys HQ we are about telling the whole story, whether its communicated in the most clear cut language or not. Just mere moments before this photograph was taken, Caz – the main subject matter in this photograph announced that she would get rad for the #lightbro, for the #content, the #cornerlikecaseystoner and for the sake of getting rad. Mere moments after this photograph was taken she announced to the world that she was truly apologetic for not getting rad enough. Fortunately for her the only person within earshot of this proclamation was the photographer themselves, and they tend to disagree with such statements. Caz, in case you didn't realise you're racing on a single speed cyclocross bicycle. If that doesn't have you sitting high on the throne of rad queens then we've just uncovered another cruel injustice in this world.
With a woman serenading spectators and racers alike with the soothing tunes of Dr Sikiru Ayinde Barrister the Men's A Grade race got off to a flurry all before...wait, we aren't into spoilers.
Enter "The Creek". You don't necessarily exit, unless it lets you out of the kindness of its own heart. It's the one where the only way to make it out alive is to put the power down and "just ride the fucking thing". That however was a little easier said than done, particularly as the day went on. Different strategies were employed throughout each of the races, from hammering it through the axle deep waters, dismounting and running (see: crawling) through, vaulting the entire thing a la Paul VDP & Shaun Cash, or incredibly, taking the well marked B line up and around. "The Creek" had claimed a few victims over the course of the day. Adrian's left shoe mid race, a few chains, and a certain someone's front wheel.
⇖ It was Paul van der Ploeg's front wheel who succumbed in the most exacted, right angled way possible on the first few laps of the Men's A Grade race. It meant that by the time he got back around to the pits his race, by the way of achieving a result was over – but it didn't stop him from getting back out there and sliding it around the corners for a few more laps in front of the adorning crowd before what do you know a front puncture.
The countryside no doubt has a much higher dog to person count that the city right? I mean who is gonna go play with all that cattle? Who is going to take advantage of all that space and fresh air? Over the weekend we saw numerous beautiful dogs, some sporting some rather fashionable attire accompanied by their owners trackside to witness the great sport of competitive cyclocross racing.
X: QUINTESSENTIAL VLINE PLAYLIST
If there's anything enjoyable about the state of Victoria’s own rail system – its the fact that you can put your own playlist together and either zone out entirely, or fall asleep, both of which hopefully stop the passenger next to you drooling on your shoulder. A Wednesday outbound, Sunday inbound train for Adrian was made slightly easier by the following tracks.