THE SE7EN DIRTY DEEDS CX
Deadly sins, fatal flaws, dirty deeds; all 7 of them. Our team’s 7th race of the season was back in a spiritual home of cyclocross. Nick from Dirty Deeds has been there from the very beginning, a beginning that involved Dean getting chased after and squirted with a water pistol held by none other than Mr Pink. The price you pay for bringing up the rear. Darebin Parklands hadn’t hosted a cyclocross race in a good while, but finally tales of the amazing course that weaves its way through a small patch of said parklands was about to manifest itself to many newcomers of the sport. Race photography comes from Harry, Don, Okky, Aaron, Connor, Scotty, Kip, Ron, Ben and Adrian. Yep, our media crew is small fry.
It would be the afternoon following on from the very first Soup Boys #wntrslstc that Ben Lehner would get a taste of cyclocross action, and it would come at the Darebin Parklands. A cloudy, slightly wet afternoon would leave him with a taste that would only ever be satiated by getting involved in the action instead of simply spectating it. His breakout season in 2017 was filled with a desire to race in the chosen lands of his local parklands, however the powers at be (council) would not allow it. Dirty Deeds still went ahead at Brunswick Velodrome, another traditional home of the sport, but the feeling of emptiness brought Ben close to permanent retirement at the close of proceedings.
Despite an abundance of cafés in nearby suburbs, our team gathered at the beautiful home belonging to the power couple of our team: Ben and Ariella. A short ride down the bike path from Darebin Parklands meant warming up would take place in their abode by way of freshly brewed coffees and a glorious supply drop of Mr Nice Guys sweet pastries picked up by Adrian and Lauren on their way across town.
The short bike path commute from Morning Tea HQ to Darebin Parklands was a quiet one, the lack of pedestrians allowing us to hog the full width of the winding path on our journey. Once there we saw the punters arranged in lines a mile long for pre race coffees, or to pick up their race numbers. Not wanting to join them like pigs at the trough, without a team team we claimed a large chunk of the “Race Village” area, our team and accompanying entourage spilling into rival teams tents, but in the most friendly manner possible.
There were still treats from Mr Nice Guys left over, and our arrival at Darebin Parklands somehow led us to a wider abundance of cakes, chocolate bars and gels as friends, foes and family dogs gathered around in the early morning sun.
If getting out of bed earlier that morning was hard and slow enough, it had nothing on practice laps. The kinks that Mount Beauty left deep within our joints and muscles were still very much present, basking in the sunshine of the Race Village taking preference over a few frosty practice laps ducking and weaving between trees and densely shaded areas. Nick put himself at the front of the leaderboard for smartest member of the team, setting up rollers to keep his core temperature up and his legs limber.
Coffee’s nabbed from the thermos’ belonging to GPG were slammed down, remaining cakes scoffed. Last minute pre-race carb and sugar loading was taken care of as our bodies slowly came to life. Ariella, now fully amped and having shed herself of a warm up jacket and any regard for Sloth as a dirty deed rolled out of the Race Village and towards the marshalling area to get ready for kick off. In the meantime all the B-Boyz took to a traditional Human Caterpillar formation as they pinned numbers on before heading course side to cheer Ari on.
Waiting for the C Grade Women’s start whistle to blow, Harry and Don collaborated on some very foliage inspired vibes to shoot a moody lookbook that should help Don maintain his position as one of the worlds hottest Instagram influencers.
A brief mixup of leaving the barriers up for lap one led to a Australian GP c.2002 type pile up. Immediate vengeance was sought after as Ari initiated the powers of her wrath immediately, race crafted impatience giving her a mighty start as she shot towards the front of her grade as the race made their way down the rock garden for the very first time, one of the best starts anyone on our team has managed to pull off to date.
By mid race distance the sun had come out, her accidentally on purpose team issue bike glistening and blurring through the parklands. When going toe to toe with Carina racing in Women’s Open was settled (+100HP) Ari and Edi racing with the GPG crew spent the best part of the 2nd half of the race tussling for position before at the death, Edi came out on top. 24th for Ari – made all the more impressive in that it was done as part of a record breaking women’s field, the first time entries have maxed out!
As B Grade took to the line there was a lot to be jealous of. The sun seen during the Women’s C grade race had disappeared, now replaced by overcast skies that coupled with a stiff breeze led to cutting holes in the chests of skin suits. Another enormous field meant it took a minute and a half for the beloved commissaires to wrassle us into order, Mr Pink doing his best to brief 90 odd trouble makers.
Envious of the blissful sun experienced by Ari and the Women’s field before us, we were also envious of our starting positions. Ben and Ron were the luckiest of the few, however they were still well entrenched in the bottom half of the field come the whistle. As for Nick and Adrian? The very back of the pack. Final row. To break into the top 20 and grab some points for the team would be seen as a miracle, but crazier things have happened.
The first half of lap one, a lengthy train of cyclocrossers snaking their way through parkland – somewhat chaotic but pleasantly rhythmic. Then out of the squelching of mud under tyres and the occasional clicking of gears a bellowing “what the fuck are you doing?” from Ben. A resident DC with a track record doing his best Pastor Maldonado work through the tightest and most technical section of the lap.
It was on the second half of that same lap that Ron became envious of those experiencing more pain than he, opting to fly wide on a corner, end up tangled in some bushes and spend a minute or so getting him and his bike back in order. The next lap it would be Adrian who was overcome with the green mist of Enve, his clout goggles offering up approximately 20% vision, jealous of those with unobscured peripheries, he ditched the waviness much to the dismay of adoring fans like Dayne by the course, fading away for 3 in Kip’s direction as he crossed the start finish line to commence lap number 3.
Nick’s strategy of rollers and gentle nutrition had paid off, incredible. He pushed on ahead from that back row of the field, Adrian losing his wheel after flying up the back of someone then getting run over by Ollie from MAAP. He mixed it with Ron and Ben, both who had recovered from their previous mishaps in a big way, the B-Boys taking the midfield by storm – like we had 3 Claude Makélélé’s on our side.
It was lap 4 where Jonesy, racing in GPG colours became jealous of those not blowing up. A comeback that was hyped up as much as the progressive trail that Wilko has been traversing over the years had gotten off to a good start, until Lap 4 came and things went south, rapidly. His good start went to waste, spending the next 3 laps sliding backwards, but in a fit of jealous rage, conjured up a final lap assault on Adrian’s position, who at the time was getting fucked with by lap traffic through the final few hundred metres of the race. He would fall short by a bike length, both exchanging hand shakes come race end.
In a word: beaming. The only thing brighter than Jonesy’s vest was his smile, immense pride taken in his work as a course marshall down on the lower reaches of the course. Taking after Benno’s dazzling display as berm side all-seeing eye in Mount Beauty, this was Dean’s chance to shine, watching over the A Grade men and women’s races with an every watchful eye, even taking the occasional moment to yell encouragement or “encouragement”.
BONUS: THE DIVINE COMEDY
👹 INFERNO 👹
As the day of racing wound down, we were treated to a modern day retelling of Dante’s Divine Comedy through the race narratives of the A Grade Men and Women’s races. Basking in a hellish while beautiful late afternoon glow, both races fought journeyed through the the “hell” of Heckler’s (read: Vapers) Hill. Riders journeyed towards victory and towards god, their fellow racers, fierce rivals seen as vicious beasts. But it would be through the rejection of sin that the truly capable cyclocrossers would emerge towards the front of the pack. Fiona Morris, Tory Thomas, April McDonaugh and Naomi Williams in the Women’s A. Garry Millburn and Ben Walkerden tempting the fate of the renaissance artwork gods yet again in the Men’s field, like the angel Gabriel was AJ, watching over it all.
😬 PURGATORIO 😬
Like each level of suffering and spiritual growth, a lap of the Darebin Parklands course allowed riders to shed themselves of sin. Through an unwillingness to shed themselves of the vices and virtues associated with the Seven Deadly Sins, other riders would fall by the wayside, now becoming tame, domesticated kittens and puppies more than beasts.
And finally, only once the riders most pure, the riders that had cleansed their souls through the laps of Purgatorio came out on top. In the Women’s it would be Fiona Morris, the weight of expectation to deliver victory upon her birthday not leaving her shackled. And in the men’s it would be the ever calm, ever angelic racer AJ – as if his cyclocross soul ever needed cleansing.