THE SADDLE CLUB: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Somehow it’s developed into the most frequented non-home destination during this entire Soup Boys journey. Last year round 2 of the Victorian CX Series was held partially under lights, partially shrouded in complete, sketchy darkness. We were back in Ballarat a year on, only at a new location and during daylight hours, putting those with night blindness back to parity with the rest of the field.
I: PINE HOLLOW
While last years hosting venue the Ballarat Showgrounds offered a number of pavilions to escape the elements (freezing cold and sheet rain) there would be no such need on this fine Saturday at the Pony Club, completely blue skies and 19º greeting us as we emerged from the tree covered laneways of Victoria Park.
Familiar to any Melbourne grammarians, RM Williams or Ralph Lauren loyalists in attendance, the course design was courtesy of Nina Kerr who helped put together a lap filled with every possible feature the Ballarat Pony Club let alone Pine Hollow could throw at the rider. While the clear, crisp day meant that the elements wouldn’t be fighting us, a lap asked riders to navigate sandy showjumping arenas, water jumps, weave between brushed skinnies and risk it for the biscuit over the “Jaws of Death”. As far as lap length goes, this would be one for the ages, leaving what we knew of Fields of Joy and some of the longer national series circuits paling in comparison.
Cayman Executive, faceless member of the Reserve Bank and Chief Instigator of this entire teams journey, Brando was back in our team colours and the first to line up for the squad on this blissfully sunny day, blessed upon the seas he rolled through practice laps with Adrian and Matt Lew from GPG. Given that through his role as a Cayman Executive must mean exposure to bourgeoise settings like Pony Clubs, Polo matches and just horses in general must have meant Brando felt truly at home. With such a vast array of obstacles, it could be a chance to showcase his special move – the “Bourgeoise Bunnyhop” a strategic display that had been honed after years of lessons.
He would line up as part of another 80 deep field, enormous vibes for a “flyaway round” where he would spend most of the race battling with Rob Srbinovski and Sean Pie. Around the wider, grassier areas of the course, Aaron and Harry were perched precariously, awaiting the field to come by. Still preparing themselves for their upcoming race, Ben and Adrian took up spectating from the final corner, where riders still needed to navigate a parallel oxer and a slight dogleg to the finish.
Lisa Atwood (played by Lara Jean Marshall)
Lisa was a Straight A student, pressured into horse riding by her mother who made her do everything she deemed ladylike. A constant overachiever she had an uncanny ability with horses, her intuition and ability to bond with them particularly evident when it comes to the wild stallion Diablo. While still new to horse riding, it’s not long before her skills surpass those of her Saddle Club friends Stevie and Carole.
Since wrapping up her role in the Saddle Club, Lara Jean Marshall went on to study at university, popping up in several of Adrian’s friends Instagram stories during uni pub crawls in the process.
It would be in the latter stages of the race where things would hot up as the rivalry of student and lecturer resumed: Brando chasing down his former superior in Rhubarb Russ Kerr. Whilst in possession of his significant and special move, it proved to be futile against the equestrian barriers of significant height, a stuttering remount after vaulting the barrier ending his hopes of getting yet another victory over his old lecturer.
Signed from associate gang the Hunter Bros. and poached directly from the Yankees with Derek Jeter’s blessing, Harry was making his debut alongside our regular, now rather bolstered B Grade contingent. Harry was aboard his new but old Giant TCX purchased from Lil Bæ 1er, Adrian was back on his new BMC Jan in the hope that the front tyre would keep its shit together, and Nick was on his second bike, a BMC running the most questionable set of cantis. The three of them practiced their track stands at the back of the massive field while a little further up, smart enough to take a starting position early, Ben and Ron were preparing themselves for the next 50 minutes, starting somewhere close to the twenties.
Adrian’s front tyre would hold out after all, so would his rear. His pedals and cleats however wouldn’t, a stellar start to the season continuing with a second consecutive DNF after half a lap. Before the leaders had moved onto their second lap he was back at Pine Hollow getting changed out of jodhpurs and into a warm tracksuit especially designed and milled for spectating and race photographing.
After a few small, unfortunate mechanical mishaps, Ron spent most of the race battling hard with Irish National CX Champ Ogaram. Over the final few laps Ron took a few pointers from the Grand National handbook, hip and shouldering a few barriers as he broke away towards new opponents. Down the same end of the field was Nick, rocking the OG St Kilda CC hot pants skinny. The aftershocks of the same cold that hampered his Fields of Joy race afflicted Nick’s experience of round 2, and despite the lack of undulating terrain, shored up the fact that the cantis he was running definitely needed an upgrade.
Stevie Lake (played by Sophie Bennett)
Stevie dropped her given name Stephanie, a decision informed by what Wikipedia has described as “having always been a tomboy”. Uncomfortable with the activities of other girls her age do, one love always remained: Horses. Described as the prankster of the gang, her hare-brained schemes and practical jokes always lead to her two friends bailing everybody out of the mess. Despite being from a rival pony club, she develops a hella crush on Phil Marsten (#scandalous).
Post Saddle Club Sophie Bennett signed on to Kew’s very own Shock Records where she recorded and released way too many CD’s (7 in total) with a Saddle Club co-star and rival Kia Luby.
Harry’s debut in both the sport of cyclocross and for the Soup Bæs team was a roaring success. Keeping pace with Ben and the mid pack bunches during the early stages of the race, he commenced a near race-long battle with Cam and Jamie from GPG before the latter pushed on ahead. His pace along the flatter and more open sections of the course were likely caused by a lack of working brakes, which could have also led to his demise through some of the trickier parts of the course. On a bright white bike and in his vibrant Hunter Bros. skinsuit he flashed past, working his way towards a deserved mid-pack finish.
A year to the day after his first every cyclocross race Ben would prove to be the best of our lot, harnessing the powers of a pre-race brew, a clean bike (shout out to Muc Off) and the sun (praise be to photosynthesis) to finish in 36th out of 85 starters. A gel tucked into the bottom of his skin suit seeped its way directly into his bloodstream for a shot of energy that cut out the middle man, Ben putting it to much better use than Adrian who stood on the sidelines taking photos with the contents of 2 dessert flavoured gels hitting his heart.
IV: MERCH PLUG
Two thirds of the way through last season we released a mini batch of beanies for our friends and fans. They’re back for season 2018, but this time we’ve expanded the collection to include presentation jumpers and supporter scarves.
Yep, scarves. Matching our kits to be revealed in near full-strength roster at the Mt Beauty double header, these scarves are the result of a collaboration with a company from the land of soccer scarves (England) and the land of cyclocross (Belgium). Only when 3 such powers get together can things fully be pulled off in such a way.
Scarf beautifully modelled by Alice the Whippet.
As the women’s racing took to the start line in their respective waves, it would be a monumental day for the Soup Bæs CX team as we would lay witness to 2 new debutants, one taking on her maiden race. The rest of the team, and our respective 50-deep Media Team™ took to the back end of the course with ice cold Solo’s and burgers in hand, acquired after a few scuffles around the BBQ at the Pine Hollow stables.
Taking on the Women’s B Grade field was Katie, fresh from a stellar performance at the VRS Tour of the South West she was proving more than capable while off road too, shaking off any last morsels of jet lag from a trip to Japan. On her birthday no less she immediately shot towards the front of the race, consolidating a spot in 3rd, but hovering dangerously behind 2nd place.
While you can lead a horse to water, you can’t make it drink. The same can’t be said for a cyclocross racer, magnetic towards handups provided by the adoring audience. Round 2 coincided with Katie’s birthday celebrations, and while the prospect of 2nd place may have seemed like a sweet carrot up ahead, being able to maintain a near perfect handup record was far more important. With a face splashed with beer Katie managed to hold onto 3rd place comfortably throughout the race, the male members of Soup Bæs CX taking pointers on how to traverse the wildly varied terrains of the course.
Carole Hanson (played by Keenan MacWilliam)
For a moment here lets ignore the fact she is “most well known for her role as Carole Hanson in the Saddle Club” and acknowledge the fact that her second role was (albeit as a child) alongside THE Denzel in The Bone Collector. Hectic. As an in-boarder at Pine Hollow, and a lover of horses, hence Saddle Club membership, it’s lucky she isn’t allergic to horses. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for her allergy to camels, a completely relevant fact for a horse riding, God loving character of a TV show set in Australia? Canada? Virginia?
Since reaching such career highs as a 5 minute starring role in the Bone Collector, then tearing it up around Pine Hollow for a few years, Keenan MacWilliam has gone on to have a rather impressive career that includes stints as an actress, singer, dancer, writer, director, fashion designer, producer, art director, graphic designer, and associate producer. On Instagram you might know them as “Entrepreneurs”.
In Women’s C Ariella was making her racing, and her Soup Bæs CX debut aboard a super fresh Specialized Crux in what were basically team colours. A pre-season of practicing on the Yarra Trails with Ben helped her work through the field as the Media Team™ got to work documenting and cheering Ariella and Katie as their races went around the course.
BONUS CHAPTER: BORN SLIPPY
It was towards the end of the women’s race that race commissaries authorised the watering of the 39th corner. What was a light sun shower slowly developed into a fully isolated storm front, dumping hundreds of litres, hell possibly megalitres worth of water on the exit of the corner. As the Elite Men rolled around the course, spectators braved the conditions and took up a spot right next to the bunting as the riders did their best in traversing the tricky and ever changing conditions. File treads that had been strategically chosen and fitted to bikes following practice laps were now rendered useless, full muds and even shoe spikes were what was required.
A very slightly off-camber corner with a surface similar to that of the fringe of a golfing green had now turned into something that closely resembled a motocross berm. Bunting was torn, posts knocked over and new race lines formed as mud flicked everywhere, some even stopped at the outside of the corner, admitting defeat and seeking a stationery hand up. The effects of this isolated storm front will remain etched in the memories of Elite riders for a long time yet.