NOPE, IT'S NOT A MIRAGE
We begin this story by introducing you to our friend Novak. Picture Novak, all 196cm worth of him – fuelled by too much Rakija and infinite Cevapi. He’s just swapped out his flowy shirt for THAT Tinkoff Saxo kit, but kept the running shorts and Nikes.
Throwing a backpack over his shoulder he leaves his 90’s Benz behind, and rolls down the street past the Mount Beauty BMX track. From there he hits *that* roundabout at the entrance to town, hooks it left and begins his climb up to Falls Creek – 30km away.
A few kilometres back down the road is Ben, Adrian and Chris. Leaning on their bikes they’re hanging tight at the bottom of the Tawonga Gap climb, the morning sun growing more intense by the minute. Normally a spot only interrupted by the sounds of the wind heaving towards Mount Bogong to the east, today isn’t like any other day. Today the Herald Sun Tour is heading through the area. And so, blasting from the two-way radio of a police officers bike is play by play updates of the situation out on the road.
The race is on its way up Tawonga Gap from Bright, having started the day in Wangaratta. Soon you hear the marshals on their motorbikes, and the race chopper become louder and louder. First over the top of the gap, then the rapid fire descent (it takes a semi-decent amateur around 10 minutes) to the bottom. A small and rather doomed breakaway hits the bottom first, taking a left and heading up the Kiewa Valley. The peloton isn’t far behind.
The race disappears up the road, and so did Ben, Adrian and Chris, only heading in the opposite direction. In a minute or two the 3 are onto the Falls Creek climb, ready to hunt down Novak. The first few kilometres were spent placing bets on where Novak would be caught – the best guesses being somewhere between Bogong Village and Junction Spur.
In short the mission was pretty simple, we sent Novak up the road so he could tick off his second ever mountain climb after Mount Buffalo a year before, and the side mission we’d given ourselves was to catch him. The real mission was making it to Howman’s Gap – highly regarded as the spot shit was most likely to go down, although we would take anything beyond the Bogong Village as a bonus.
Immediately Chris ripped legs off along the lower slopes, undulating our way towards Bogong. Gooda managed so sneak a few photos of the 3 cyclists sacrificing themselves to the sun gods on the way up the climb, air and body temperature rising noticeably on the way towards the top.
We had passed through Bogong Village in record time but without any sight of Novak, and then as we came together as a 3-man chase group at 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 of Howman’s Gap, or the top if we really want to, we continued at a more chilled out pace, the shade of the trees helping calm things down.
With each corner we searched the upper slopes for the bright red bike of the future Serbian National Champ, and it wasn’t until 3 or 4 corners short of Turnback Creek that we finally caught a glimpse. We crept up on him over the next few corners, finding Novak simply cruising in the shade. With plenty of time to spare, the four agreed to pull over briefly at Turnback Creek for some alpine stream based refreshments. It would only be 1km further up the road where we would officially pull up stumps outside the Howman’s Gap camp, to which the waiting game would commence.
Faces refreshed and back on our bikes there would be another kilometre or so worth of riding up the road before we were able to officially pull up stumps. Weaving along the road and up the hardest climbing of the entire ride to Falls Creek, we eventually caught a glimpse of Howman’s Gap, and several other cyclists who had the same idea we did.
As we got closer, the shimmering of the tarmac intensified, the minimal shade on the corner mixed with the early February heat turning the spot into a true cauldron.
But that was when, in our daze of cooking ourselves up the first 26km of the Falls Creek climb, we saw it, in all it’s glory.
A vending machine.
SPECIAL EDITION T-SHIRT
SBC x RHC Falls Creek T-Shirt
Our fourth and final collaborative t-shirt in partnership with Ride High Country has been designed and printed out of respect, love and deep thanks to this exact roadside vending machine. Since the day it bestowed us with $2 cans of pure, unadulterated refreshment as we waited for the Herald Sun Tour, it has played an integral role in the Soup Boys own journeys up the Bogong High Plains road. Even though it has since moved a few hundred metres up the road to the tollbooth, may this sugar coated vending machine remain as an oasis in the alpine desert for generations to come. Celebrate the final SBC x RHC ride of this #7Peaks season by either buying a shirt, or stopping by the vending machine on your way up to pay your respects and make an offering in exchange for a fresh drink.
Personally printed to order in the Soup HQ Workshop, these t-shirts will be made available for free pick up at the start or finish line of our ride for orders placed before 2pm Thursday 28th February AEST, or shipped out to those who can’t make it, but simply want to celebrate the existence of one of Australia’s favourite climbs.
Regular fit – size up for baggy free-flowing vibes, size down for aero gains.
Crew neck, double needle hems, preshrunk to minimise shrinkage.
Mid weight – breathable for summer commutes and adventures, perfect for layering in autumn.