KICKING OFF SEASON '17 WITH THE VELO CLUB SOUP BÆS
Only fitting that Season (20)'17 for the newest and hottest kids on the cyclocross block would officially kick off late. Having missed Round 1 of the Victorian CX Series due to jet-setting or hunting down Clive Palmer, Round 2 would be the first opportunity for us to strut our stuff. Also fitting would be the fact we would return to a Soup Boys cult favourite (among a long list of other favourites) – Ballarat. But we wouldn't be the only ones, as west of the border, Adelaide riders Sam and Fi would be hitting up some super thick Nutella at the Crossfire Cup.
I: SPONSORS MESSAGE
After months and months of research in strong partnership with our wonderful sponsor WBC (Wilko Broadcasting Corp) 106.9 FM – we have put together Soup Boys Radio, here to assist with all your race day road trip, warm up or psych out needs. This highly curated playlist is around an hour long, just enough to last you the journey to Ballarat, or just short of a journey to Ballarat as we would soon find out. Themed around some of the classics than can be heard echoing from the windows of Soup Boys HQ, and inspired by the goldrush we hope you enjoy this playlist suitable for any occasion. Even first communions. We will be partnering up with WBC 106.9 FM throughout the season, helping broadcast race playlists, press conferences and other super and super breaking news level important announcements.
II: READY STEADY COOK
Preparation for cyclocross bicycle racing is paramount, but that doesn’t mean that race day is smooth sailing. Particularly when heading out of town, there are always a number of key ingredients that you need to get on lock down to ensure the recipe to your race day success goes smoothly and deliciously. For Ben things went a little more like they were from the Masterchef kitchen other than the Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmare happening (much) further down the road. His four key ingredients, his important business to attend to:
1. Fuel up at La Panella
2. Hit the freeway (Hatebreed plays)
3. Secure a lit spot for the squad (Sucess!!)
4. Win the bench press comp.
III: DAD'S ARMY
The timing couldn’t have been better. We were departing Northcote with a full CyclingTips company car, a handful of bikes atop the roof. Fuel was not a problem on this occasion (a reference from the future, but also from the past) and things were looking good for a timely arrival. Our Soup Boys Directeur Sportif, for the winter races the Velo Club Soup Bæs CX Director Sportif – would meet us out there after we had set up. Tent, BBQ, veggies ready for the roasting – it was all looking like a tantalising debut at state level for some of our raceurs, while for some a first proper, full race length hit out of the new season. Then came Caroline…Springs.
Our intended arrival of 3pm, with plenty of time to warm up set up camp and roast veggies took a major hit when the entrance to the Western Hwy was closed off for line re-painting. If the drive north west out of Melbourne was any more unappealing, this time we would have to venture through the southern fringes of Melton. With locked doors and a speed limit absolutely pushed to its legal limits we made it out alive, accidentally hotboxing our way via heater to Ballarat only an hour late, casually.
With Ben having successfully won the bench press competition (rain threatened to wash away the competition, but the Temple Brewing Co. folks promised they would be back) the squad participated in required reconnoissance lap(s). Perched atop the babby hill we had managed to secure for premium race spectating and heckling, we were able to survey most of the relatively flat as a tack course. But its twisty nature, and adding the fact our legs were a little creaky from the drive strongly persuaded us to head out on course and try to decipher the snaking course. It was during our reconnoissance that we were able to establish the importance of 2 things. The first was achieved and solved as we washed ourselves out on sand and front flipped bikes during half assed bunny hop attempts. Doing this gave us an insight to the surface of the course that not many others would have had the opportunity to discover before they took to the start line. The second was a key development phase of our warm up uniforms. Flanno, in all its checkered glory, normally only reserved to those at thrash shows, chopping wood or at cattle markets, now stealing the show at the cyclocross races. With the perfect blend of breathability and warmth, it is the perfect piece of clothing to wear when heading out and scoping the course.
Rolling up to the start line, one thing was crystal clear, one thing stood out. Nope not Adrian’s nipples hidden behind the impressionist waves of the Pedla summer CX edition kit, nor the fact that compared to other riders in full compliments of warmers we were well underdressed. With all of the joking, and the longing to remain Forever Young, we were actually the cute teens of the bicycle race. Among a field of 80 riders, being in our mid twenties to early thirties put us down as some of the youngest in the race. The next 40 minutes of tight and twisty racing would be us vs our dads, although after a first corner incident that left a handful of dads off their bikes and tangled with rivals, the field had thinned out almost immediately. S bends reminiscent of Monza’s Variante Ascari had riders snaking in and out in and out, only to be interrupted by a barrier lofty enough to require dismounting and vaulting, as opposed to bunnyhopping and face planting.
One by one team riders Kip, Ben and Adrian picked off the Dad’s army with snipers precision, before Adrian got caught trading blows with the biggest, most defensive dad of all. The shootout would last a lap, when right in front of the bench press the Defensive Dad™ would slip up on the future slip & slide, handing Adrian the place. In the midst of actual fist pumping levels of celebration, Adrian ended up flying into some bunting, snapping one lot of tape before tangling himself up in a second lot. The celebration of gaining one place had led to the loss of around thirty as he re-entered the course in the bottom handful of riders.
Shot by the talented Connor, and Cam who was using the opportunity to run around as a way to stay warm before the B-Grade roll out – our three team riders traded blows to each other and the waves and waves of dads. Half way through, sheets of rain poured down, blanketing the Showgrounds under floodlights. Belgian conditions, which had been largely absent from season 2016 had most definitely arrived, with sounds of cowbells, the pavilion disco, and Soup Bæs shouting encouragement to one another echoing across the grounds. By the end of it, shivering cold and ready to cop mad feeds, the team scored 3 mid-pack finished, Ben and Kip having officially made their debuts at a full race distance. They would offer their thoughts during a post race towelling in the Soup Bæs CX claimed shelter.
“Overall it was a success for me personally and great to see friends have a good race and a good time. I got home and washed the beach off my bike (thanks Muc Off #sponno) and got my derailleur back where it’s meant to be (thanks to the secret mechanic and Soup Boys fan). Being able to make my debut this time out has me fully gee’d up for the double header on the long weekend.”
“That was a pretty fun race considering the rain and mad chilly wind. I kind of wish I wasn’t so excited about passing the Defensive Dad™ because tangling up in the bunting there was a bit annoying as I had to properly dismount and spend a bit of time untangling my bike. All in all I’m happy I got to keep it upright because there were a few guys in front of me deck themselves and give up spots in the process. Happy to come back into 20th, also happy I’ll never have to jump that barrier again.”
“I started off the back, but it was kinda good to avoid many early crashes and tangles. As the rain came and field thinned out I estimated I was about mid pack, and turns out I was right at about 30th. I was slowly picking off riders and couldn’t see anyone behind me so it was a bit lonely for a while there but I just wanted to ride a good line and not bin it and waste time. It was hell fun sliding around and reminded me of riding a dirt bike again.”
– Ben Lehner (BSCC CX Bench Press World Champion), 29th
IV: WHO SAYS ROYALS NEVER GET THEIR HANDS DIRTY?
Thanks to nature raining buckets, the course was nothing like its former self during the open practice session. Thanks to the fresh watering, much of the course was lacking proper traction, the perfect example being the off camber section in the final half of the lap. Having spent the last hour trying desperately to stop the effects of hypothermia creeping in by nestling in the team car with heaters cranked, footy on the radio pumping we watched, honked our horns and cheered on the womens racing, with hands half defrosted and bodies only shivering every now and again we re-emerged to watch the comical scenes that were B-Grade ride a little faster then we, and wipe themselves out on off camber sections.
This included our boy Ming, affectionately known as the Prince of Kew. He had got his secretary to arrange an evening off from accumulating wealth to hit up his first cyclocross race. Considering Adrian was sketching out towards the end of C Grade, Cam called it quits on racing B, as vision exiting a few particularly sketchy corners was “ahhh…fucking sketchy”. That left us to primarily focus our cheering efforts to our Prince, and to Mason, who in the cold, dreary conditions was no doubt praying for a hot bowl of Minestrone #italianpassion.
Ming would come out the end of the race with a top half finish and a smile that collectively warmed, then melted the knees of every spectator in attendance. A few crashes here and there thanks to the conditions, and a lengthy battle with Casey from Rockwell & Sons livened things up as the rain calmed itself, bringing spectators out from the pavilion disco and the warmth and comfort of their cars. The A graders were about to ply their trade, as were the prolific photographers, milling around the first tiny dogleg into turn 2 (think Nurburgring) hoping for the all important hole shot.
V: THE SLIGHTLY MORE CAPABLE
It’s okay because we got it.
You could certainly argue that the only reason lap times in A Grade men were quicker was because there wasn’t 80 of them. But then when you get to the barrier sections you totally understand why, as any hop step and jump that you (a humble C grader) has to do is replaced with grace and poise, a bunnyhop over oncoming obstacles. With teeth chattering (the wind had gone from chillin’ to utterly polar), race reportage of the A Grade men comes to you from atmospheric (weather & ISO) conditions and in a dot point format, the Press Clüb afraid to take their hands out of their pocket long enough to take down notes beyond a couple of words.
Where’s Scott? Most of the time the answer is simple, as he is super easy to spot in bright orange Over Yonder kit. But a few (rumoured) mechanicals here and there meant that occasionally we had to reach for the magnifying glass and get searching.
Paying quick respects to hardcore show photography of the mid 2000’s. Back when treks and giants were, in the words of Luimarco “propahhhh”. Think Casey Jones, think Carpathian playing Billboards. 20 minute sludge metal songs and Enter Shikari covers at the local Freeza gigs. Telling your friends your birth certificate says you were born in Boston. Moshing with cinder blocks, and most importantly spamming flash. Only this time its 2017, and instead of blinding Michael Crafter for a split second, you’re giving poor junior elite racers, and old mate Squid a flashbang through the door, a little more dangerous considering they’re racing bikes, not ranting about some only thereabouts socio-political thang.
(1) Classic spectating: outside, yelling, socialising, shaking a cowbell, maybe drinking beer, definitely eating some food from the local vendors. (2) Post-modern spectating: in a lavish retro Landcruiser with hella carpets and heating. Honking horn and flashing high beams every time a racer comes by. Listening to the footy, getting sautéed, eating Oreos.
Adam Lana (Team Curve): reminiscent of a broody Paolo Maldini, probably thinking about knocking Steven Gerrard the fuck out, if this was football and not cyclocross.
Battle of the old guard. Alby and Redenbach wound back the clock for an hour, going blow for blow throughout the race. We say battle of the old guard and wound back the clock like they’re past their prime, but this was right up at the top of the field. As young whipper snappers still living under the falsehood of being “cute teens” we can only hope that we are that fast in dad-hood, or ever. Eventually it was Alby who would pull away in the final few laps to get the better over his bitter (we just made it so) rival.
VI: BALLARAT FARE
Having ventured to Ballarat more times in the last 6 months compared to the previous 68 years, The Forge has fast turned into a regular haunt of the SBC. Like we are regular customers, we copped a familiar long table up the back, one that has served us well on many previous last(?) suppers. A quality pizzeria which would certainly tell 400 Gradi to take a seat, but have Papa Jovani doing nothing but congratulating them for their efforts (we have 3032 local bias), we gorged our cute and exhausted little faces with pizza and various hard and soft drinks. Much like Jesus addressed his disciples, one by one each member of the travelling party provided their own unique commentary on the unfolding events of the evening, until it became just a series of slurred words and it was time for us to leave as the only patrons left in the building. In the pouring rain we would reluctantly emerge from the wood fired pizza oven warmed hall of The Forge and into a frosty Ballarat night. It was after 10pm and a drive back to Melbourne awaited, would we regret the decision to stop for pizza? Our stomachs refused to believe such regret would exist. Our weary eyes as we arrived back at Soup Boys HQ at 1am would argue that point.
VII: PRODUCT PLACEMENT
For the weekend the fine folk at CyclingTips were kind enough to lend the team a company car, made famous by an appearance in #roadtrippingcanberra and from featuring a vast number of Dean’s Instagram photos. Having had our Directeur Sportif provide a mini review during our time in the nations capital, we saw it as a way to review addition features of the Holden Colorado Adventure mobile. The cycling utilitarian spec that it comes in (pictured) contains a high end Swedish washing line, for bikes. Having seen this in Canberra, we were a little disappointed to not have the opportunity to test it out, as fine weather prevailed throughout that particular weekend. But what better opportunity to give it a proper test of its capabilities than with a number of cyclocross bikes in post-race condition, one having not been cleaned since August last year. Turns out it does a might fine job, as long as you follow the directions attached to the product disclosure statement:
1) Mount dirty bicycle and lock into place within the Swedish washing line, for bikes. 2) Begin wash sequence with light rinse, stopping for pizza. 3) Approx. 60-90 minutes later, spin and air dry, before beginning the next wash cycle. 4) In torrential rain, drive for 2 hours, allowing the small branches of a gum tree draped over a Northcote back alley to clear away remaining mud, sand, blood and debris. Drive a further hour, air drying sporadically along the Eastern Freeway. 5) Four and a half hours after commencing the wash cycle, inspect your bicycle. It should be clean, but probably not quite Muc Off clean.
VIII: A DAY AND HALF AN HOUR LATER
The following day, while Soup Bæs from Victoria still nursed post race hangovers and creaky bones, and while Kip searched for meaning on Yahoo Answers as to why his chainring induced calf wound was still bleeding, the Adelaide squad of Fiona and Sam took to the start lines within the expansive Adelaide Parklands for round 2 of the Crossfire Cup. Matty J and Tim Loft were there to photographically or smart phoneographically document the race, while our good friend Andy of rival team MAAP Speedvagen put together a nice little piece on the days racing. On a course that started out as nice, buttery Nutella – the two of them raced hard, considering they cited mid week sickness holding them back somewhat. Nothing that a few little dirt naps couldn’t fix. Rest is good for you, right?