OPERATION: DESERT STORM CX
Whispers on race day confirmed it, the start of the 2018 CX season here in Victoria had crept up on everyone. It could have had a fair bit to do with the kind of weather we had been having, mid week storms doing little by way of baptising the race course. Aboard Apache helicopters we dropped into what could only be explained as the second wave of Operation Desert Storm (CX). We get it, camo kits are in this year.
I: CUSTOM SKIN
Exactly a week earlier, Ben, Nick and Adrian undertook a reconnaissance mission to Fields of Joy, gathering intel on the current state of play (racing surface). Grim. Dusty, bumpy as all hell and in desperate need of some TLC it was a far cry from the buttery splendour we experienced back in August at the close of the season.
It was also a chance to release a new, custom edition gaming skin(suit) to the wild. The fear of getting kicked by the admins have led us to censor the below images until further notice, but the dazzling colour caught the eyes of other scouting parties out getting a sneak peek of what in a weeks time would be the Red Zone.
II: SELECT YOUR MAAP
After experiencing what he had experienced during the reconnaisance mission, Adrian put out a twitter prayer to Jane Bunn and the Hall of Meteorological Angels to release a series of artillery strikes (isolated showers) directly above Essendon Airport and the neighbouring Fields of Joy complex. On Thursday prayers were somewhat answered, as the regular commute for many friends in and out of the Soup were bailed upon. Nobody wanted to catch a cold mere days before the first race of the new season.
Despite the downpour that could have given us "epic" conditions of 1980's Paris–Roubaix proportions, upon our arrival the course hadn't changed a bit, still doing very well to resemble the hills of North East Afghanistan. And so, we found ourselves staring over the wasteland of Strathmore Heights, Gowanbrae and beyond. The course our only enemy, and our destiny in the hands of the Cyclocross Gods.
III: CHOOSE YOUR CLASS
Our squadron was left rather depleted for the first race of the new season, a few members AWOL, MIA or AFK either through illness, through being in the air on return from International Duty, or out of town racing on crisp coastal tarmac. We took the opportunity to show off the Season 2017 kits for one of the very last times, in all their beautiful, painterly glory.
IV: LOAD SCREEN
Positioned closest to the start line, our squad quarters were abuzz, new shoes from team partner Suplest being applied with cleats, worn in for the first time, and then locked and loaded. Tyre pressures were adjusted, and bullet-proof flannel shirts donned as select team members took to the course for the end of practice, getting a taste for the dusty and hazardous conditions.
A little shout out to kick off the season, and it goes to Suplest shoes. Nick had a chunk missing from his old pair of Giro's, courtesy of his dog, and Adrian spent most of last year keeping his shoes together with electrical tape. Now their kicks game has been lifted, all thatʼs left now is to enter into the next realm of sock doping. Throughout the season weʼll be telling you more about Suplest and the other wonderful team partners weʼre linking up with for Season 2018.
But for now, back to our half baked warm up.
V: FREE FOR ALL
Kip was first up, a little hungover from a wedding the previous night, and running a helmet borrowed from Adrian. Late season vibes were a big case of the “no thanksʼs” when Field of Joy wrapped up the season at the Melbourne Grand Prix of CX last August, and through the conditions, and it being a surprise arrival of a first race of the season, FOJ must lend itself to a dark, scary place in Kipʼs mind.
Another huge field had taken to the start line for Menʼs C Grade, 70 or 80 deep fields have now become the norm through the lower grades, especially for the rounds held in Melbourne. Dancing and weaving his way around the course Kip sat mid-pack, sweating out the activities of the previous night.
It would be at around half race distance that disaster would strike, courtesy of contact with the wire fence that cut through the centre of the battleground. A mashed up hand sending Kip to the medic tent and out of the race for a reluctant DNF.
VI: TEAM DEATH MATCH
Much had been made of the mouthwatering prospect of the Menʼs B Grade Team Deathmatch over the summer. For months and months the suspense towards seeing GPG and the Soup Bæs CX team was hyped up, matched with training camps on at least one side of the rivalry. Alongside us we had mercenaries, guns for hire like Mason, Hoaxy and a few members of the newly formed crackpot squad of Team Why CX. It took almost 15 minutes before every player was successfully loaded into the game, and once the admins dropped the rules and recommended racing etiquette we were finally able to get racing.
The field was just as deep as the C Grade Men before, causing a major bottleneck into the first few corners, but with a few quick descents and a journey through the berm and the whoops, the field began to sort itself out.
The first casualty would be Adrian, his weapon choice of his new BMC was correct, but he definitely chose the wrong tyre pressure perks. He suffered through a lap and a half of washing out around every corner before succumbing to a front puncture and heading back to the team quarters, then to the medics for treatment for near identical wounds to Kip's.
A few spectators entered the game, watching from various snipers nests and other vantage points. Nick would follow Adrianʼs lead and DNF a lap later, leaving our team at 50% strength for the rest of the race. Putting on brave faces, Ron and Ben were still very much in the race, working their way from their starting positions at the back of the field to finish up somewhere near the middle, a constantly tug of war with other riders as they constantly switched places throughout the technical and punishing course.
VII: GAME LOBBY CHAT
Good games were shared throughout the server chat, but we had been thoroughly beaten by the Maap. Our mercenary friend Mason, part of our clan simply through spending time carb loading alongside us got himself into the top 10, but as for the B Grade Men of Soup Bæs CX, 2 DNFʼs and 2 placings in the lower half of the enormous field.
"Here I was thinking there was too much air in my tyres, turns out running 10psi in both tyres isn't quite optimal by any stretch of the imagination. It was causing a little bit of lag out there, and resulted in me hitting the fence a couple of times, washing out on damn near every single corner, and eventually end up flying through some bunting after my front tyre decided to give way. Can only get better from here right? We'll see in a few weeks time once I've uprgraded my RAM."
"FOJ is a tough way to start the season, my second attempt at the course and it was a fun layout and dry conditions. Me and most of our mates started pretty much dead last in an 80 man B Grade field, I had god mode on for the first two laps and got up to about 40 something, then slowly started drifting back to 50 something and managed to finish on the lead lap (just). It was a long race but I felt I raced well, stayed mostly on the bike except for one little slide. Im ready to see what Ballarat has for us."
"I think it’s worth a mention that my Blackhawk helicopters (left index finger) was shot down with an RPG and exploded into black heavy flames (got scratched against a fence) with maximum casualties (I bled a little and had to get a bandaid from the paramedics). So good race by me."
VIII: SEMI PROFESSIONAL E-ATHLETES
By the end of lap one in the Women's A Grade, our team was looking a lot like this:
Alice gave it her best shot, but a flu mixed with the last remnants of bad sinuses meant she pulled to the side not long after the starting whistle blew.
The womenʼs field for the first race of the season was strong both in numbers and in quality of racing, as small groups slowly formed up the front and throughout the middle of the race. Because all the women's grades ran at once, the crowds around the course were treated to small mid race battles every minute or so, making for a wildly entertaining hour of racing.
Positioned around the Nikon Snipers Nests, we would watch Mel Anset take advantage of a section of the course that caught a few by surprise, moving on ahead into the clear air. Rocking her custom skin matched with a custom bike decorated in the number of scalps she had taken in the past, she continued to pull away from the other riders, taking the win with a big handful of seconds to spare and further improving her obviously impressive KDR.
The dust storm of riders came through for the Menʼs A Grade race, the course dustier and more cut up than ever. Secret concrete blocks, rocks and sticks had surfaced after a days worth of racing, meaning certain corners threw curveballs at riders in the mission of keeping air in their tyres. If they could navigate the debris along the course, they were treated with the flatter section of the course that made up most of the back half of the lap, although the tussock grass surface was akin to riding across hundred of brooms.
Pantone GT was able to avoid the best of the geological debris, it would be a piece of bunting that would lodge itself in his cassette and rear wheel, hitching a ride for the rest of the race.
They were out in full force on race day, the tie dye especially adding the unseasonably warm vibes. On the day we had a few enquiries to another run, and we’re here to answer them here right now.
Yes. In time. We’re probably talking spring. We don’t quite understand why you would want a t-shirt for winter anyhow. So keep eyes and ears peeled, various colours, sizes and tie dye iterations will be available as the warmer weather resumes.
The race slowly began to string out, Garry Milburn, Ben Walkerden, Paul Redenbach and Adam Blazevic leading the charge into battle.
Eventually it would become just the former 2, turning it into a battle of Victoria and New South Wales, of Good vs Evil, Young vs Old. Garry would go on to do most of the pace making in an attempt to put the hurt into Ben, who for the most part looked like he was asleep behind those sunglasses.
And thatʼs what made the implosion so much more spectacular, like he had been spammed by flashbangs. A combination of a mechanical and a mysterious bit of blood along his calf pushed Ben back down the field, slowing right down for the last lap or so, Garry eventually cruising home for a win, fine tuning that early season form in the lead up to the start of the NSW and National series.
IX: SIDE MISSION
Sorry itʼs a bit late, but I hope this finds you well. Cyclocross? Ohh sorry I thought you said cyclocross-winds! Iʼm so sorry I couldnʼt be there for the first cross race of the season, battling cross winds outside Warnambool called my name so longingly. A three stage battle began with a galloping road race on Saturday morning. After a debacle with forgotten shoes and a hard dose of adrenaline only hardcore free for allʼs can provide I got to work. Three laps of this short but very taxing course and I spent the first two getting rolled for every sprint. I thought I was done for! Lucky me, I played my cards right, smartly positioned myself in the bunch split on the last lap and crossed the line into the safe zone in 6th place.
The following day was the stage I was most looking forward to, the individual time trial. Yes, you can call me a masochist but in a battle like this who isnʼt? The nerves were high for this one, and apparently for good reason! I crossed the line in the hot seat with only one person behind me. When she crossed the line, Paddy yelled at me “You won!!” I couldnʼt quite believe it, but the saliva and snot on my face indicated it might actually be true. My ITT time put me second place on GC.
The final stage, the battle to win the war was a crate, and a brutal one at that with a climb around a cemetery. My strategy was to not get dropped, minimise my time losses in the sprints, finish with the bunch and hopefully hang onto third on GC. I pulled off my strategy with a cool and confident mind and even managed to sprint for fifth place, which kept my second place on GC by ONE SECOND!
What a tour!
Iʼm now back on the chopper heading home to my barracks, I look forward to jumping back onto the dirt to brush off my skills for the next actual cross race.
Iʼll see you all soon