THE LAZIEST COVERAGE OF THE 2017 ACTUAL ROADNATS EVER
A few months ago, and still to our complete bemusement, Cycling Australia – as in the governing body of this websites sport of choice, in our country of origin – sent us out to the Victorian Goldfields, the epicentre being the town of Ballarat, to preview the home of #roadnats. That was November, and now it was January and after skipping out on Bay Crits on three straight counts of being too hungover from New Years Eve we returned for another handful of days worth of bicycle adventuring and spectating.
I: A WESTERN HWY PLAYLIST
Getting us through our hump day drive to Ballarat for the opening day of road nats, and helping us survive the arduous few days that would follow, we had resident BeatsMaster Okky conjure up an eclectic combination of tunes that would provide the soundtrack to the weekend. It would inspire us to continue forth on our two wheeled journeys, assist us in post ride chilling the fuck out, and make the drive home on Sunday hella zen.
II: THE BALLARAT #CORNERLIKECASEYSTONER DEMONSTRATION
While we tried our best to get pythagorean around the crit course as a way to work of all-you-can-eat Pizza Hut, turns out the paid professionals are slightly better than it than us. We arrived crit side as the U23 Men plied their trade, making us reflect upon our own wasted potential and distinct lack of speed. This was something rather compounded with the discovery that Adrian had left all his memory cards on his desk back at Soup Boys HQ. Fortunately the local Camera House was building a crowd of photo enthusiasts keen to try out the latest 24-105 f4 lenses. Memory cards were reluctantly purchased, upselling politely turnt down.
The combined Elite Women and U23 Women were the next to roll out following shots fired by the local mayor. With a building crowd in the centre of town breaks tore away, and were reigned back in until Orica Scott rider Jessica Allen took the race (if it were a bull) by the horns. It was a good few laps out from the finish where the rest of the peloton realised there was no catching her whatsoever, the race for minor placings becoming slightly more exciting than the daring solo victory up front.
Mid race we ran into Riley of the Everything Online – eye burning red media vest matched with a pair of basically glow in the dark Huaraches. Fire. He lost his media credentials in the following days for who knows what reason. Chapeau(?) We’re for the rebels.
With a brief break for the track to cool jets and for important drones to be launched (#repyoursquad), riders began rolling out for the Elite Men’s race, laying some hefty rubber down through the exit of the final corner before a never ending uphill drag to the line. Pre-race predictions were made in person and on Twitter with the usual suspects constantly being mentioned.
In the opening encounters riders either from smaller teams, or riding solo shot off the front for a moment of “TV Time” – this included Adrian and Harry’s favourite son, the name-unknown 88mm carbon wheel rocking dude from the Olivers team. Further breaks formed, were reigned back in, and formed again. Dean’s favourite Nathan Earle shot off the front and he couldn’t quite contain himself for a few laps there. Despite the fleeting moments of euphoria the process became so slightly predictable that we took the opportunity to sample the BBQ run by the local football umpires association before gaining a little altitude for the finish.
We wrote about going upstairs when we last visited Ballarat, and eluded to its mythical aura. It was a place where only the hottest, the most charming and influential folk could venture to. And for whatever reason, in our post work-out gear or what you could call “civvies” we had made it. Self-judgements aside we took in a stellar view of the race from above the rooftops, experienced our first taste of race side canapes and watched Dean promptly sink close to 12 litres of beer and a bakers dozen worth of Mars bars in half an hour. Even through his mild inebriation he was still so polite as to pose with a nice, slightly more senior gentleman who spotted us out of the crowd as we looked down upon the champagne fight being carried out on the podium by those usual suspects of Ewan, Sundo and Jones.
Walking back to the car we opted to dissect the evenings unfoldings with a second visit to the beloved Forge pizzeria. Some fine folk from Cycling Australia joined us for a dozen pizzas, beers, good times and witnessing Riche lose his third pair of sunglasses in as many months.
IV: WINDOWS VISTA TT
We take the opportunity at the start up window to remind you that Don was actually sick in bed, and not roadside in Ballarat on Thursday watching the national Time Trial champs play out in the wonderful heat. While being back in bed however he was still able to hear the whirring sounds of the disc wheels from the comfort of his bed in Melbourne. FWIW Rohan Dennis defended his title with the kind of class only expected of a Blackfriars alum, Katrin Garfoot dominated the womens race, and here's the Windows Vista startup sound slowed down to 24 hours.
V: GRAND FONDUE
Saturday morning dawned with the Road Nats Gran Fondo – Soup Boys A taking on Soup Boys B in the ultimate battle of cute teen supremacy in the coveted teams category. 5 laps in total would be undertaken around the same course those getting paid would do the following day (anywhere from 10 to 18 times) and we would use it as a gauge on our performance for when we win the actual road nats next year. Or the year after.
For the most part the concept of “team” flew out the window once we all hit the KOM on lap one. Actually well before that, as all but 2 of us missed the start thanks to arriving in Buninyong on our bicycles as the first lot of riders shot through the starting gates. All things considered we made sure we had fun with it, despite some being rather under the weather. With the support of Riche acting as Directeur Sportif in Harry’s absence, and a Yamaha beats machine being pulled out of a jersey pocket on the ride back to our temporary HQ, spirits remained high for what was a grueling, and rather hot few early morning hours.
VI: THE GREEN ROOM
As you would expect post race coming down took place rather close to the Buninyong Bakehouse (praise Vanilla Slice) and amongst a slightly Cayman setting. With Mars bars on tap thanks to some promotional workers, the beats machine doing its thing, and our legs slowly working their painful kinks out we shared our experiences of the mornings edition of bicycles while diving through our special edition rider showbags.
"It was a great race and fantastic first ride with the Soup Boys. It was a tough course though, and I definitely won't be envying the boys racing 18 laps of this tomorrow. I'll be back next year!"
"I'm trying to figure out if its the heatstroke I got yesterday then again this morning, the 4 hours sleep last night, Phil Liggett's hectic pace up the KOM on Lap 1 or the shocking fact I almost wasted a good jersey pocket peach that I was going to throw at some SKCC fuckheads for nearly throwing me into a barrier...but give me a couple Mars bars and put me to bed because I'm dead as fuck."
"It wasn't the greatest combination of post-ride feels but at least I looked minty fresh. Mid ride cramps put a blow to the morale but at least I still dropped Adrian for the 69th time."
"First of all it was an honour to be able to ride the same course as the champs do, but to do it on a weekend where I can watch my first live bike race is going to be a truly awesome experience of how great the cycling community and culture is in Ballarat and Victoria. The course today was a true test of endurance and fitness for us Soup Boys, and will be for the champs tomorrow. I can't wait for the next one!"
"I thought my recon a few days earlier would have prepared me for multiple reps of Mt. Buninyong, turns out when you do more than 2 laps your legs really start to sting. Weird that."
"Anyone to look at our future paperwork will be impressed to see that the Soup Boys were the cutest teens on the start line, thank god the descendants of Pythagoras have also taught us the appropriate alphabet. One of my riders was underweight at the weigh in, so we equipped them with an added Yamaha DD-10. I then leapt back onto a red support vehicle and a-lined for the feed zone. Shout outs to Ross from Inform Tineli for reaching out with the esky"
VII: EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
Following a re-satiation via the local wholefoods store, chance run in with the Edge Runner – we made waves back out of town to a small town called Rokewood, mistakenly referred to as Rosewood to some bemused locals. There we found a small swimming lagoon, one that could have been natural but was now completely man made. Either way the water was deep enough for us to dive off the little jetty, the cool change was slowly rolling in, we were able to sink beers in the middle of the pond, and we couldn’t find the General Store or the pub, so we were all $4 richer.
Blessed by the Goldfields waters, we head back to the Golden City Hotel for a hearty pub dinner, to be followed with locally scooped gelato – enjoyed on the rather ornate lawns of the median strip of Ballarat’s main street, now referred to as Central Park.
VIII: 2017 MT BUNINYONG STREET PARTY
It would only be keeping with our lifelong theme that we rocked up late-ish to the actual Road Nats day. Or was it because Katrin Garfoot held down the accelerator far too long and took the win ahead of schedule? Regardless, we rolled into town aboard our fleet of red and black bikes (exclusive) to chat with a few of the Womens riders about how their race went, and to some friends about to throw themselves in the deep end and roll out in the Elite Men’s. The people’s champion Alby provided mensa certified predictions of the how the race would unfold (it did exactly what he said it would) and did his best to settle the nerves of our sentimental son Gene who was rolling out and repping the holiest of numbers on this Road Nats day.
The rest of the squad grabbed some caffé latte’s despite the raging heat, Adrian opting to process the 12L of fluid he had consumed in 24 hours 3 times between the start and 2km banner. Once set up on the hill and in the company of close friends we got our countdown apps out to ready ourselves for the start of the race.
From the get go the pace was still rather rapid, with riders shooting off the back of the main group come the first ascent of Mt Buninyong. From a brief return to Melbourne to head to Cookie in a pair of Adidas slides, Dean was hoarsely cheering on his best friend Nathan Earle as he moved towards the front and a break made up of some rather handy riders (Morton, Ewan, Turbo, Hucker, NVDP to name a few) took out a gap of a few minutes before settling into a proper pace.
We cashed in on roadside Chobani (#brandambassadors) Cycling Australia call-to-action Zooper Doopers and Boost Juices freshly squeezed by Mum (no in-jokes, just reading her name tag). With the heat still building we reluctantly held off for the time being on the van labelled “Game of Cones” as we weren’t all that ready to green out. Either way, through the middle section of the race, transfer rides, single beers, the previous days events, the previous nights clubbing, or just the heat began taking its toll and Road Nats 2017 fast became Road Naps 2017. The only breaks in the zed’s came in the form of Dean wildly dabbing, the Chobani wheely fridge rolling by, or watching over the SRAM sausage sizzle happening close by.
It could have been Dean violently trying to hand up a sausage in bread to a number of the riders, or maybe newly crowned Soup Boys Neil VDP had one too little Kiewa Milks before the starting gun, but the rather sizeable break was reeled back in like Rex Hunt in his prime, sans a kiss. Next to move was Brendan Canty who with the collective raised heart rates and screams of the Melbourne community (population 4.5 million~ ) shot off the front as the race came by for the 17th time. Not far behind, and with the collective raised heart rates and screams of the Greenmount community (population 2,500~ people). It would be a lap too early for the both of them as when they came around for the 18th and final time everyone (only a handful of riders remained at this stage) was back together.
Once the riders came past, a beautiful, contemporary form of Frogger, or Crossy Road for those born in the last 18 months took place as the crowds sprinted through the race convoy to watch the remainder of the race at the various televisions set up in the backs of cars, trucks and vans. It would be yung Miles Scotson who would again remind us of our wasted potential as cute teens in our mid 20’s who went on to take the win in absolutely heart eyes emoji fashion. Cue the kid in full BMC going football supporter level apeshit for no other reason than BMC taking the win. Naturally Adrian shed a single, silent tear over the beauty of it all.
IX: PIZZA HUT SHAKEDOWN
Tradition states that the post Road Nats, or rather, post Ballarat shakedown takes place at local fine dining pizzeria, “The Hut”. The finest culinary offerings west of Tullamarine Lazy Moe's, and a last bastion of all-you-can-eat fine dining, we feasted upon Dean Sauce (now trademarked btw), pizza, garlic bread, and random dessert concoctions all while discussing the phenomenon that is an event like Road Nats. While we had ventured out to the street party in 2016 to witness a memorable Jack Bobridge win, it took a second and third visit through a stray email shot through to our website before we realised how strongly the community truly embraces such an event. Maybe it was the hearty dinner we had just enjoyed, the fact that the days racing still had us on some kind of natural high, or the fact we don’t want the race to be more than a short drive away, but it sure is nice in Ballarat.