A NOT SO SPRING CLASSIC
Adrian and Don were last minute omissions through illness and injury, but that didn’t stop Alex and Ben from flying the SBC flag during the 30th running of the John Woodman Memorial Handicap a.k.a the Wagga to Albury. With a team car filled with good vibes and two cute teens for support, they competed in a classic 135km one day race held in the middle of not-spring, often defined by brutal crosswinds, hail and – in the case of the 2015 edition, getting dropped.
I: HUME HWY MIXTAPE
All roads out of Melbourne lead to North East Victoria, unless you’re travelling to Adelaide (which you should be doing by plane). Traveling along the Hume Highway is nothing short of a national past time, one that is married with roadhouse stops and creating hella playlists before leaving Cragieburn. What better way to celebrate both than with the Soup Boys Hume Highway Road Trip Mixtape, paying homage to the King Sized $4.20 Four ’n Twenty and packed with hearty musical goodness, it will keep the vibes good at least until Glenrowan BP at which point you either turn down the Great Alpine Rd or are left to your own devices (talkback radio).
II: CANDLELIGHT VIGIL
Last years running of the Wagga to Albury was defined by punctures, hail, rain, crosswinds, getting dropped and some big league teams dominating affairs. Whilst those boys from the big leagues were overseas racing in places like China and Malaysia, a candlelight vigil was still held at Soup Boys Regional HQ on Saturday night following a recon ride around Wodonga. A candle was lit, Coopers offered up to the alter, and rhythmic music played as we all bowed our heads and prayed to the Lord Tom Boonen, the king of one day classics.
III: CAFFE LATTE
Waking up in Wodonga on race day we all felt truly blessed by Tom Boonen following our heartfelt candlelight vigil. An hour and a half drive awaited us as we previewed the parcours in reverse, finishing at the Blessed Bean. It was here where we were anointed with heavy caffeination and some ‘eff off big raisin toast, increasing the pre race jitters before heading off to sign on at the Tolland Hotel.
IV: PRE-RACE CHECKLIST
Whilst it’s a little unorthodox, the Soup Boys pre race checklist is vital when racing or commuting via bicycle, with all boxes requiring ticking to ensure smooth sailing towards the finish line. Changing from racing discipline to racing discipline, let us guide you through the type of checklist we need (read: you need) to compete in a one day not-spring classic bicycle race in changing conditions like this one.
PRIME PARK UP POSITION ✓
The field at this years edition of the Wagga to Albury was particularly large, with 120 or so riders taking part. Being a point to point race, it meant that many people either had to be driven back to Wagga, or had travelled to Wagga from their homes for the race. This meant a sizeable cohort of motorised vehicles at the sign on area, more than what you would get down at DISC on a Tuesday, or SKCC crits on a Sunday. Because of this, prime park up position is vital if you want a decent vantage point to suss your opposition, and the ability to remain nice and close to the commissaire as he gives his briefing, just in case you forget anything before you have to roll out (gloves, food, glasses and the application of chamois cream).
A BEAUTIFUL SCENT ✓
You never know who you might be riding against; Esteban Chaves, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, Lizzie Armitstead, or some shit hot locals. What if you smell so bad that the bunch tries extra hard to drop you? Or if you win and you’re getting interviewed by local media and not smelling straight 100. We recommend either Lynx Africa, Chanel Allure Homme Sport or a combination of both. The sweet scents will lull your opposition into a false sense of security and have the locals at the finish line going wild for you win or lose. On top of that, racing in the Riverina we can guarantee that you’re going to get sick of the smell of canola pretty quickly.
RACE NUMBER ✓
You’d think its a given, but considering Ron and Adrian almost missed the start of #MCLCX through tardy race number pinning it’s something to keep front of mind. Make sure the number is either comical or one of your favourites, pinned nice and tight, ensuring minimum drag and the saving of watts across the 135km journey.
SHOE COVERS ✓ MOUSTACHE WAX ✓
Considering we are aiming at becoming a World Tour team in the not so distant future we figured we should embrace the philosophy of marginal aero gains. Shoe covers, especially Velotoze work well in keep the air flowing smoothly around, the rain out, and at least some of the heat in. Moustaches and other forms of facial hair however dodgy are tamed and smoothed back with wax, combining aero efficiency and style with a lower chance of having a whole bunch of gel and bar crumbs stuck in it come race end.
JERSEY POCKET SUPPLIES ✓
There are multiple items that can be ditched and replaced with more suitable jersey pocket supplies in a race type scenario. Phones, wallets and spares (you should be running tubulars) can be left in the support car or at home and replaced with the following: Medjool dates for the sugary middle eastern energy vibes, San Pellegrino for the extra Giro d’Italia hydration style vibes, a can of V to cancel out the hydration vibes, all natural herbal supplements for the chilled demeanour vibes and moccasins for the post race relaxing vibes (storing them in your jersey pocket is optional. If you have a team car, keep them in the team car).
BIKES AND A SURF 'N TURF COMBO ✓✓
Turns out bikes are an important box to tick on the pre-race checklist. Get them off the roof, out of the boot or off the racks and make sure they are all finely tuned and looking hot, stealth, aero or a combination of all three. Have a chat to the commissaire and ask kindly if he can delay the pre race briefing by a couple minutes so you can sneak in a surf n turf combo deal at the local pub, keeping in mind you shouldn’t be paying any more than $15 for this fine form of pre race nutrition, schooner included.
V: THE 30TH JOHN WOODMAN MEMORIAL
The race started on the southern fringes of Wagga in the persistent rain. Alex spent the first few kilometres mentally running through his pre-race checklist, with a particular emphasis on double checking he had his Velotoze on (sponno?). Despite the drizzle, both Soup Boys rocked a jersey & bib combo, as the Pedla kit we don is perfect for varying conditions, and always under the racing kind.
Back in the team car a detour was made, and a dead end was found as there was a failed attempt to jump ahead of the race to gain prime photographic opportunities. In the end a short period of behind-the-lead-bunch chilling was had before we shot off ahead, with select riders beginning the dropping off the back within the first 15 kilometres tactic. Not our boys though, who were easy to spot up the front with their distinguishable jerseys and bright green Velotoze swag .
The team car rolled into Mangoplah with enough time to interact with the local shoppe keeper and discover that we were too far north to acquire some Kiewa milk. Ben had notified the front of the race that this was simply Alex’s solo ride pace, so the screws were turnt and the pace increased as they passed through the first “major” “town”.
Once the race passed through the executive decision was made to “fang it down the back road” as to not get stuck behind the peloton once more. Soon tarmac turned to gravel and we were treated with some splendid Riverina scenery before being spat out at the second “major” “town” of Cookardinia.
It was in Cookardinia last year where Alex was forced to jump in the sag wagon with a front puncture and various hail stone welts. As he made the right hand turn of the t-intersection that is the entire town, an almost audible “how did i get dropped so bad last year?” could be almost heard. As they made the turn Ben began winding up the diesel engine for the intermediate sprint, just over 20km away in Culcairn.
VI: FIELD ART
With the kind of scenery the bicycle race wound its way through, you would expect a smorgasbord of field art greeting us along the way. Unfortunately you would be completely wrong. In fact there was no field art, and hardly a peep from any type of farm machinery even after the sun came out. No doubt there are numerous farmers of the Riverina region perusing our website, and sure it was a Sunday but we must beg of you, next year bring your A game when it comes to field art, it will keep us in the team car, and those of us out the back entertained for most of the day. To help you out we’ve included a small Pinterest style board of shoddy photos and screenshots of some certified euro field art, but we know you can do better.
VII: THE FEED ZONE
Culcairn, a town 213 metres above sea level, home to 1120 people, and as it would turn out the location of much bicycle race related activity on this particular day. To the east of the quintessential Riverina silo & train track photo was the intermediate sprint where Alex placed second. Whilst on the surface it would appear second is a gallant effort, Alex put this all down to timing. Making sure he made the jump early enough to create a gap between opponents, he passed those in front of him and didn’t fade before the line. Unfortunately he just didn’t know where the line was. Turns out the guy “taking photos in the middle of the road” wasn’t actually that guy, he was actually the “waving the flag for the intermediate sprint” guy. Even with a perfect lead out provided by Ben, and a 5 pedal stroke deep effort by Alex it was too little too late.
With our nerves for the boys and their impending climb of the Jindera Gap aside, Harry jumped out of the team car and lined himself up for the handup, proving that he is so much more than just a Directeur Sportive and Australia’s most promising Yung Bodybuilder collab. Logistically the feed zone was supposed to be rather smooth as Ben, further proving that he is the token hard man of the SBC didn’t require further sustenance, choosing to ration out the tiny bits of Torq gel that frosted his mo. Unfortunately the nuttelex spread on Alex’s raisin toast earlier that day still lingered on his hands, a bidon went flying and expletives were voiced, and he would have to soldier on with but a few jersey pocket Medjool dates and a few more mouthfuls of water.
Whilst the era of pre-feed zone Wagga to Albury was spent rolling turns, the post-feed zone Wagga to Albury was defined by a new style; the "soft pedal when you hit the front and ease into the guy next to you so he's forced to let you in front of him" style. This technique was employed numerous times on the road between Culcairn and Walla, before the two "climbs" towards the finish of the race. As a way to both break your opponents and piss the entire bunch off, small surges were unleashed, before each blow would be softened by caffé latte paced pedalling and slowly moving across to create a space for yourself and save energy. Particularly handy if you've just participated in a botched hand up.
↑ “You just dropped the World Cup mate!” Steve Waugh to Herschelle Gibbs in 1999. Also probably a guy at the front of the bunch to Alex as his bidon bobbled amongst front wheels.
↓ Beneath the shade of several palm trees, on the parcel shelf of an early 2000s Toyota Camry sat a touching ode to the Caymans.
The front bunch had kept enough of their lead that as we waited for the rest of the race to pass through town, we were treated to a number of Culcairn Cultural Phenomena (below L-R) Wise Owls; possibly more expensive than naive owls but it’s hard to tell as there weren’t any displayed in the window. @bikesanddogs; as this was a point to point bicycle road race, spectators and their canine friends were hard to come by for the most part, fortunately a supporter of another team and her wonderful pup filled the void. Chiller Marshals; not as friendly as the Mangoplah Marshal, but they definitely channeled the Cayman vibes via palm tree and Camry hat by not giving a fuck if you wanted to drive through the roundabout, if the race was coming, you were waiting. Baby Boomers; no doubt on their way to Port Douglas or somewhere similar, with “Spending The Kids Inheritance” emblazoned on the front of their camper van it’s like they want you to know how much their own kids hate them. Safe travels!
The remainder of the race came through in sporadic bunches or ones and twos, all separated by near Paris Roubaix #boomgategate type moments thanks to a number of freight trains, a historical rail journey and the XPT. Fortunately nobody was held up and the race continued on with a number of riders side eyeing the hell out of the bakery, thinking it was the much better option. Who could blame them.
After the botched feed zoning and lacklustre spectating was finished, it was time to participate in the more important feed zone of the day. Enter the Culcairn Bakery. Positioned on the main roundabout in the centre of town, and housed in a building erected in 1908, it is a gem amongst many on the drive from Albury to Wagga. It was a chance for many a support crew to kick back and relax, think about how much hurt all the bicycle racers were putting in to each other, and indulge ourselves in the regions finest fare, including Kiewa milk at its most northern stockist.
VIII: THE CHECKERED FLAG
An accidental over indulgence and embrace of the Cayman lifestyle meant that we were in danger of missing the finish. Permission to follow the race beyond Culcairn had been denied to all by the race commissaire, so Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was our soundtrack as we smoked the Olympic Highway into Albury, somehow arriving at the finish line with plenty of time to spare.
With a local cycling expert who possessed an encyclopaedic and telepathic mind rocking the mic, we learnt that as the riders hit the penultimate climb not far from the end, a bunch of 12 had formed at the front, splitting from the rest of the race. As they descended and emerged into our view, that bunch had split once more the clutch. From a small bunch of 6, Cobram Barooga CC rider Tony Crawford took out victory in the sprint from a number of local riders just behind.
Not far behind Alex rolled in for 7th place, ripping a fat enough skid to tear a hole in his tyre. No doubt the boys at skid.cc were smiling down upon him for that immense act of extreme sport, but a Finish Line Marshal wasn't, who briskly walked over for a stern word. Ben had listened to our pre race warning that regardless of position he had to lunge for the line if he wanted dinner. He rounded out the top 10, both of the boys doing us very proud.
IX: PARC FERME RETROSPECTIVE
Amongst local media, a coffee van and local bicycle racing supporters, there was a chance to reflect on the days 135km of racing. Phone calls to loved ones were made, TV interviews given and hand shakes conducted between riders in acknowledgement of efforts out on the road. Despite pressing media engagements and an impending presentation ceremony, both Ben and Alex were kind enough to take the time to share their thoughts on their own performances on the day.
"The pinnacle of the day for me was definitely dropping my chain on Jindera Gap. It gave me a feeling of elation that even 7 hours on the My Aeon dance floor cannot reach. Pure ecstasy. After convincing myself that I was in fact not amongst the clouds in heaven, but actually in the throes of an important bicycle race on the Soup Boys calendar, I dismounted my noble steed Denis as if it were a CX race and vigorously re-railed my chain and stomped off into the sunny distance. This is truly a moment I will never forget."
"A year makes a big, but little to no difference. Lend me your ears so I can elaborate. Last year I had great legs. But I was so unprepared for the hell that was about to unfold. It was the first ride on the now infamous “break the internet” plastic-dipped Avanti, the weather was horrid, I didn’t have the right kit for the conditions and had never raced on the road before. This year I was super comfortable on the bike, the weather gods had answered our prayers and the kit game was hella strong. A lack of riding really shone through at the 100km mark. The pace didn’t seem hot and I thought all day we’d get caught but when we heard we had enough in the bag after Walla, the hammer went down and it was lights out for this poor babu. I hung on until Jindera Gap and dragged myself over the top and top tube pedalled down the other side to 10th. Now can we go get a feed?"
After media commitments all the SBC milled around the team car to stretch out legs, replenish lost food stores and change from kit. Once the senses of taste, smell and touch returned to riders bodies it was decided that fried food with a complete debrief to match would be held at a local fine dining establishment (KFC).
X: FUTURE TEAM BUS
We were on our way out of town when we saw it, and when we did our eyes lit up, our jaws dropped and the hair on the backs of our necks stood on end. We thought that being a shining example of pristine German engineering was enough, and then we saw it. It was the long lost bus of Route 420. We’re still on the search for Soup Boys style components on our road to becoming a World Tour team, but this might be an important first step. Plenty of space, big windows that opened wide enough to provide easy access to sign autographs, a criminally thirsty engine and low enough to fit under finish line banners. It was perfect. Despite this we held off the purchase for now, but in honour we made sure to bless its existence with a herbal sacrifice.
XI: BONUS PRODUCT REVIEW
We were lucky to get the free Renault Koleos Stealth upgrade for this interstate journey, but despite these particular radar detection avoidance properties some Yung Delinquents were still able to track it down and dust graff it. As it played a big role in his race preparation and recovery, Alex felt it would be fitting he shared his thoughts on this French automobile.
I dunno man like the phone keeps goddamn disconnecting every five seconds with its shitty bluetooth situation or whatever, it won’t let us charge the phone at the same time. And the speakers say they are Bose but there’s fuck all bass and I’m pretty sure theres no sub in the freakin’ boot otherwise I’d made sure it was vibrating the entire car. Oi it’s pretty spacious but.