A day planned well in advance, but fortunately a day that required minimal planning. We’ve done a number of stupid ass rides during this still short Soup Boys era, but this one was set to take the cake, reset the bar, and potentially force us into premature retirement. The mission, whilst initially secret was simple: a longest ride to be held on the shortest day of the year. Sure the officially winter solstice fell 3 days after our ride but consider this. Name one time we have stuck to traditional methods. And name one time where we have organised a ride to take away from the steeped tradition that is racing track at DISC on a Tuesday night. Nobody was going to notice those extra few seconds of sunlight anyway.
I: LIMITED EDITION LA SQUADRA
You may have seen our official La Squadra on another page of this website, however for the winter solstice we needed to come up with a hardened, more geographically conveniently located type of La Squadra. We also figured we should invite some friends along for the journey, and thus here we are moments before heading out the door towards our Grand Depart. As such, it should be remembered that Ben, of Skid.cc stead, and Ron of the Admiral.cc were both held in the highest regard, more so after the weekends events. They have been kind enough to allow us to include some of their imagery in the reportage of the day.
II: FOOTY TRIP WITH THE BOYS
It would be incredibly unlike a Soup Boys ride if the start was not heavily delayed through lack of alarm setting, lack of wanting to get out of bed, and a desire for an extended breakfast. Our planned departure was for 6am from the ticket booth of the Sandy Creek Football Ground, hallowed turf of the Tallangatta & District Football League finals series, however we found ourselves watching the cloud above illuminate with the rising sun around 7am as jersey pockets were filled with bananas, bikes run through their final paces, insta’s being grammed, and Jonesy beginning his new career as a Balconi Mix Max ambassador. Brava!
By the time we had finished kicking some from just outside 50, warming ourselves up and posing for the media frenzy assembling outside the ground, it was 7.22am AEST and time to roll out. Unless you were Dean who decided to walk his bike out onto the road.
III: THE MIST (2007 FILM) RE-RELEASE
It would also be incredibly unlike a Soup Boys ride if there were multiple delays at the beginning of the day. We soon found out that it wasn’t just our cracking pace that meant Directeur Sportif Harry wasn’t able to keep up, but the fact that through Jonesy’s insistent gramming and use of phone charger, the battery in the support car had been run flat. We opted to continue through the low lying cloud and terrifying mist as we climbed Lockharts Gap Rd, albeit from the easy side. Thoughts were collected at the top, as was the first round of nutrition, and with black ice and absolutely zero visibility greeting us through the first half hour, we descended down into the bountiful farmlands below.
Harry was finally able to join us as we pulled up for a brief moment to tally the number of cows already spotted (many) and enjoy the first (of also many) for lack of a better Phil Liggettism “nature breaks”. Soon we were well on our way aerotucking and wattbombing along the Omeo Highway towards Mitta, greeted by more low lying cloud, friendly locals and herds of beautiful cows, naively trying to race us. We arrived in the small village (we’re calling them that to maintain the #eurovibe) of Eskdale, the location of the first and only intermediate sprint. Despite getting the most aero, Adrian gallantly took last place, fell into hunger flat and had to grab a banana or two from the car before setting off again.
IV: RECIPE FOR BEAN SOUP
Bean Soup, better known as Fagioli Zuppa is the perfect way for growing Soup Boys to successfully fulfil their protein requirements during the winter months. Regardless of dietary persuasion, that is vegan or not – you too can put this recipe together to warm up that engine the night or morning before a big race. Provided by Adrian’s mother, and served up to us the night before our big ride, it is our second winter warmer initiative, guaranteed that it will have you pumping out 420 watts at 69 rpm for 12 hours minimum.
1 medium onion peeled and diced
4 garlic cloves peeled and diced
1 large, 2 medium, or 4 small carrots peeled and diced
4 chopped celery sticks
2 medium potatoes peeled and diced
1 litre of home made vegetable or chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 tins (500 grams) of borlotti beans
1/2 cup of risoni soup pasta
salt & pepper - push it
chopped Parsley for garnish
Pour some oil into a medium to large pot on low heat. Add onions to be cooked for 1 minute, then add garlic and bay leaves, cooking for another minute.
Add pre-prepared carrots, celery and potatoes to cook slightly on low heat, stirring occasionally.
Add preferred stock to the mixture, and bring to the boil.
Whilst waiting for the soup pot to boil, drain and rinse borlotti beans.
When soup is at boil, reduce to simmer and add borlotti beans, cook for another 2 minutes and turn the stove off.
Let soup cool slightly, remove bay leaves and blend soup with a stick blender
Place soup mix back into the pot and bring to boiling point slowly. Simmer, and then add soup pasta or rice until cooked.
If soup mix is too thick, add more vegetable or chicken stock
Season to taste, garnish with chopped parsley
Serve with crusty bread – buon appetito!
V: PUNCHING DARTS
A back road was chosen as the connection to the next village, climb and rest break. A back road that followed the Mitta Mitta River and was guarded by not only an ostrich, but a Kelpie pup that was awfully hellbent on chasing Dean for a few hundred metres as he tried to establish an early solo breakaway. Other attacks were made as riders stopped to remove knee/arm/leg warmers, participate in another nature break, or take photos but as the road flattened out from the 1% gradients it held at the start, the bunch came back together. By this time the number of animals spotted had increased tenfold, both in number and variety of species, and outnumbered vehicles we had come across almost a thousand fold. Whilst hard to keep track of, new species of animals were acknowledged throughout the rest of the day, however nothing would come close to dethroning the Guard Ostrich.
Further aero tucks were employed as the gruppo compacto rolled into the village of Dartmouth. Formerly home to thousands of people decades ago during the building of the local Dam, its population was now so small and so predominantly made up on Honda dirt bikes that we had increased it by a large percentage. A perfect example of this villages quaint-ness, was our brief park up before the second climb of the day, the Dartmouth Town centre. Whilst we certainly enjoyed our 30 minute stay, we must still apologise for waking the man asleep on the park bench outside the general store, as we must also apologise for no doubt the feeling of utter confusion as to who we were, what we were, and why we were in Dartmouth.
Welcome to the shining glory of Darmouth. Most famously known for being big, and being built by Mediterranean settlers during the 70s, not so famously known as being the finish of a shortlived bike race where the winner received nothing but a meat tray, a hand shake and no doubt their photo in the Tallangatta Herald. Our second climb of the day was up to the Dam Crest, one for the puncheurs as it is just over a kilometre long, but hits 10% in various sections. Fortunately the black ice of the early morning had begun to properly dissipate and in combination with our high downforce and soft compound tyres, grip was at a premium on the way up, and on the deceptively fast way down. Photo’s were snapped, rice cakes and bananas scoffed and mini briefings of the days first 80km were held. Little did we know that perched atop the dam wall, danger was lurking closely.
VI: COUNTRY TOWN GUN SHOW
It’s a given that guns are commonplace within country villages and regional areas, however none of us expected guns of such power until our young Directeur Sportif Harry was spotted aloft the Dartmouth Dam wall. The crisp mountain air and semi direct sunlight offered the perfect opportunity to showcase the weapons that were made swole guiding the support car through the valleys and hills, passing every possible test thrown his way.
VII: MITTA MITTA
Our major stop, the sight of the third feed zone was the village du Mitta Mitta, found by following the river that bears the villages name southward into town. The General Store as should always be the case when visiting country villages played host to some major respite, located on arguably the most hectic central village drift corner of the Tallangatta & District region. Ben Lehner provided some hella skids around said hectic drift corner for the eager boys and girls, whilst others chose to collapse on the safe pavement outside. Dietary and performance enhancing superfoods like home made sausage rolls with sauce, muffins and lollies were consumed to replenish energy levels, formal nature breaks were held as was meditation and fishing down by the river. There was even a moment to provide some country folk directions to the local football game, which Adrian tagged along to in the hope of revisiting an old high school crush.
After everybody including Jonesy had the proper chance to refuel and pose outside of matchy-match houses, it was time to head further south, and onto the third and final climb of the day up to Christmas Creek.
VIII: SUPPORT CAR PRODUCT REVIEW
As far as team cars go Renault have definitely hit the nail, but it’s been slightly bent in the process. Split zone climate control, Bose stereo, roof racks, a downwards-folding boot lid, and forgiving clearances are all necessities for a team car. For a small SUV, the Koleos handled well, and had enough power to get you up HC grades with ease, although it won’t be smoking up third to a symphony of flutters and doses any time soon.
Throughout the weekend the car was optimised for long stints on highways, and frequent stops to take photos and make sure the boys were well fed and hydrated (major key). An assortment of phone chargers, aux cables and maps were employed, and the rear row of headrests were removed to fit as many aero wheelsets in the car as possible.
The only improvements that could be made would be more/larger bidon holder spaces, a secondary battery to provide charge to Jonesy’s Instagram device, heated seats for Harrys Deadlift affected back, and some more off road friendly tyres just to give even the slightest bit of grip when sitting behind the gruppo with two wheels off the road.
IX: THE 40KM FALSE FLAT
You would be forgiven for thinking that a 40km false flat can only mean one thing, Dinner Plain. This is fair enough, but fortunately enough we took most of the guesswork out by mentioning that we were climbing to Christmas Creek aka “Max Height” instead. The question is it an actual false flat? Or is it a false flat in the same way that we called Adelaides Corkscrew a false flat? Regardless, this 43.5km section of road into the high country equivalent of the abyss would provide the riders with the worlds biggest, and most sharpest mirror, giving themselves the chance to deeply reflect upon their every life decision as they left Mitta Mitta already 100km in.
As had not quite been the case for the entirety of the day, the sun greeted the gruppo as they hit the climb for the first time. Fortunately, the term false flat rings true through most of the first section of the climb, however you do gradually make your way skywards. Think Falls Creek, only much less descending and as hard as that may be to believe, more picturesque. Orchards, camping grounds and seemingly wild bovine animals lined the sides of the road as the bunch stayed together – at least until the signage for the Omeo Highway upgrade, the signal of the proper climbing beginning. It was here where the race…we mean…ride…came alight, as Adrian rapidly went off the front to be soon followed by Don. The road flattened out momentarily as it snaked its way alongside the river and they consolidated their gap.
Once the road went skyward again, Adrian immediately gained the upper hand, but soon became distracted by the want, the need to take photos (not so understandable) and through the habit of needing to check Tinder every half hour (completely understandable). Soon Don was back on his tail, and had in fact opened up a small lead, however Adrian would soon catch up, remind him that this was a caffé latte paced ride and not Le Tour de France, and subsequently drop him. Within a few corners he would be out of sight and never seen again. Until the top.
We guess much like every false flat, whether real of a figment of our cruel imaginations, the summit is something of an anti-climax. Christmas Creek is absolutely no different. Whilst absolutely pleasant in its deliverance of crisp air and fresh flowing (drinkable) water that provide an almost unsurpassed amount of reinvigoration, you find yourself just sitting on the road side drinking tea, reflecting on what you just did, eating a banana, cursing, channelling the forests, or realising that you’re 150 in, and still 105 kilometres away from the finish of your ride.
X: BEFORE THE STORM
One by one as riders in an undisclosed order rolled into the faux summit, cans of coke were handed out in a successful attempt to lift morale and energy. With the temperature sitting just below 5º (thats celsius) attention was soon shifted towards rugging up for the Sammy Sanchez Descending Technique clinic. The strategy for this however was completely turned on its head as moments before roll out, a storm passed into the valley. As such our plans for a photographic documentation of the clinic was put on hold as each rider shot down the mountain in the pouring rain, weaving gaps between the frosty white lines on the road. We promise in the future to bring you a photographic documentation of this descent as it is truly something. How many 43.5km false descents do you know in Australia? None if any. How many 43.5km false descents do you know in Australia where there is a guarantee for zero traffic. There's 1, and we’ve ridden it in the pouring rain.
XI: A WORD FROM THE DS
Look, full credit to the boys. They let their legs do the talking all day, and with the help of many full natty calories the 12-hour day in the saddle was conquered. It was a day of ups and downs, climbs and descents. And a fair bit of flat stuff too. Once the complications that came in the form of a flat battery in the team car were dealt with, the day went flawlessly. And apart from stopping for lunch at the Mitta Store instead of the Mitta Pub, there were no spanners thrown in the works.
Massive props to everyone who came along, rode, prepared food, and provided places to sleep and good vibes all weekend. It can’t be stressed enough that rides like this wouldn’t happen without the support and hard work of everyone on and off the bike.
Finally, without Adrian being quite the persuasive masochist, the idea to ride 250km+ on the (nearly) shortest day of the year would not even be a most distant and forgettable nightmare to any of us.
XII: BONUS MINESTRONE RECIPE
Being the perennial nice guys that we are, we’ve included a second soup recipe to keep you warm over the winter months. It was the perfect accompaniment to our post ride chilling when we returned to our temporary HQ codename: Grasshopper.
1 large onion peeled & diced
4 garlic cloves
2 or 3 carrots, chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
3 medium potatoes, chopped
1 large head of treviso radicchio
1 cup of green beans or peas
2 cups cabbage chopped
1 tin of diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Approx. 1 litre of homemade vegetable or chicken stock
2 bay leaves
salt & pepper
fresh parmesan cheese
200 grams italian soup mix
250 grams pearl barley
- Soak pearl barley & italian soup mix seperately in cool water, overnight and at room temperature.
- The following day after smashing out a 200km ride at threshold, drain and rinse pearl barley and italian soup mix, add to a small pot with fresh water and bring to boil. Simmer for 30 minutes, drain & rinse.
- In a medium to large pot add some oil and cook the onion on low heat, cook for one minute before adding the bay leaves and garlic, cook for another minute.
- Add carrots, celery and potatoes – cook silghtly on low heat while stirring occasionally.
- Add all other chopped vegetables and stir occasionally. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Add tomato paste and tin of diced tomatoes, stock and bring to the boil slowly.
- Add italian soup mix and pearl barley to the soup pot, simmer until all vegetables and bean mix are cooked.
- If soup mix is too thick, add more stock.
- Season to taste, garnish with parsley
- Serve with crusty bread, best enjoyed by an open fire and with friends.
The sun began setting as the riders all rolled back into Mitta Mitta greeted by Kiewa milk acquired by Harry from the local shop mere minutes before closure. As the #skybro @teamsky of a sunset began to fade into darkness, the final 60km of the ride commenced – and with the lack of natural light (darkness) came a noticeable lack of morale amongst the weary gruppo.
It wasn’t long after turning onto Yabba Road, and nearly immediately after a series of incredibly failed motorpacing attempts that both front and rear lights began running flat, legs began getting monumentally sore, and milk consumed back in Mitta Mitta for those who drank it started catching up with them. Under the high beamed lights of the support car, and with beats from artists included in the playlist below each bicycle rider made their way along the undulating Yabba Rd and to the turn off of the Murray Valley Highway. It was this turn which signalled 6km to the finish and a chance to call loved ones to let them know you were alive, but needed a lot of food and a good massage right about now. Running single file and with 1, possibly 2 working lights out of all of the bikes, the riders rolled turns into Tallangatta, climbing up through the centre of town and onto the lawn and concreted nature strip of the Victoria Hotel just before 8.30pm AEST.
Greeting the riders back at HQ: codename Grasshopper was nothing short of a sight for sore eyes. Minestrone soup, trays upon trays of lasagna, numerous bowls of salad and the greatest one of all; a fire pit helped with the early stages of recovery as one by one the weary Soup Boys and friends drifted off to sleep in their respective sleeping quarters.
A les exclusives playlist jotted down by team DS Harry as he sat in the comfort of leather seats, but in the discomfort of non-heated leather seats over the course of the day. Proven to pull you out of even the darkest of cycling related dark places. Except for maybe a double puncture on Beach Rd at 4.19am, that’s your own hole to get out of.
XV: SUNDAY TRANSFER
A big fried breakfast (that is, the cooking term not the…other (?) term..) was provided on our final morning in the Victorian midi-Alps. Bikes were packed into cars as were various bags. The support car was reoptimised for highway travel, and following yet another jump start, a stop at the Kiewa General Store, and one for fuel – the journey back to Melbourne, and our Winter Solstice adventure came to a close.
Whilst it contradicts the very essence of the first sentence of this incredible tale, the Winter Solstice as a cycling event, not so much as a climate event couldn’t have happened without the help from a few very key people. First and foremost to Adrian’s parents for providing the grounds for HQ: codename Grasshopper over the course of the weekend, for their hospitality, secret recipe insights, numerous fireplaces and sleeping quarters. To our fearless and swole Directeur Sportif Harry for manning the incredibly typical French support car over the course of the day. For providing bottles on climbs, photo opportunities, time gap updates to Adrian up the climbs, beats to get us through the night and muscle just in case we happened to run into some unruly locals. To the ruly locals of these towns, the farmers who waved or gave us thumbs up half in encouragement, half in utter confusion as to why the fuck there were some cyclists out in their neck of the woods we thank you. But we don’t forget the animals that also cheered us along the way, from the Guard Ostrich, to the Kelpie solo chase, the two paddocks full of cows running either side of the gruppo through North Mitta Mitta, you made the day truly memorable. And finally to all of you. Whether its Ben and Ron and their respective and equally if not significantly more awesome bicycle gangs for joining us, the wider Soup Boys La Squadra e La Familia, or to those following us via social media and barking words of encouragement like we are a collective Thomas Voeckler in a solo breakaway up Mont Ventoux, your kind words breathe life into us like no crisp alpine air could, and for that we thank you. We hope this journey, of which the route can be found here has inspired you to undertake your own journey. Maybe when we decide to become a serious bicycle gang for a single day in the future you can join us. For now, in the timeless words of internet cycling commentators everywhere, Chapeau!