Good times in Granite | Jono’s reportage from the Beechworth Granite Classic

Jono tackles the Beechworth Granite Classic

Now in its third year, the Beechworth Granite Classic is a gravel event that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Leave your power meter and your race suit at home, because the Granite Classic is about slowing down and enjoying yourself on some of the best gravel roads in the country, and it’s hard not to with everything the team from Bridge Road sprinkled along the route.

Jono took on the 115km course this year and hasn’t stopped talking about how rad his weekend was ever since.

Choose your fighter. This year there were course ranging from 15km to 115km creating loops around Beechworth.
The handmade bike show at the registration was hit. Check out this locally made beauty that came out of Shane from Tor’s workshop.
Swoon, another locally made masterpiece from Beechworth-based Monday cycles.


Rumbles in the tummy

The week before the Granite Classic, I had been battling a stomach bug. In a decision that would make Alone Australia fans start yelling at their televisions, I’ve been caught out drinking river water on a few recent rides, and it seems I’d pushed my luck a little too far. Curled up and worshipping the porcelain deity in the days leading up to the event, I worried I’d come down with giardia.

Even on the morning of, it was a bit iffy as to whether I’d survive the 115km course, and I decided to pedal at least the first 40km and then reevaluate.

The smiles started in the morning and didn’t stop all day.
Hundreds of riders turned out to explore the Beechworth backroads together.

This was not helped by a bit of mechanical faffing the day before making the trip from the Big Smoke to Beechworth which left me a day late and a gear short.

In the pursuit of fitting wider tyres on my Bombtrack Arise, I needed to slide my wheel back in the dropouts. By the time I realised that I’d made my chain too short to get into the 36t sprocket in the process, I was already committed. So I’d be riding the event without my easiest gear — idiot!

Fortunately, I not only survived, but even thrived during the event.

Bring on the scenery

The route was extraordinary and well-planned out. It was mega scenic as soon as you popped out of town. I thought I was going to be screwed without my smallest gear, but even with just shy of 2000m climbing over 115km, I managed to grind my way through without the use of my granny gear.

I mean come on, how can you not want to go riding when it looks like this!

But that didn’t matter, because as soon as you were out of town, it was classic Australiana as far as the eye could see. Rolling hills, sprawling vistas over the Victorian High Country and tangled forests — it was a full-course meal for the eyes to devour.

The views were unbelievable. The team from Bridge Road outdid themselves on the route for this year’s event. Just spectacular.

The bush is alive with music

Part of what makes the Granite Classic the Granite Classic are the surprises the crew from Bridge Road sprinkled along the course. This is what makes the event so special because it takes the seriousness out of it.

Even lined up at the start, everyone was gabbing and bantering, but the chat never trailed off to nervous silence like it does at a race. The jokes kept rolling as we pedalled out of town and didn’t stop until we arrived back many hours later. Now that I think about it, there wasn’t anything serious that I saw all weekend.

We’ve seen drummers out on course before, but never six lining either side of the road and dropping beats.

It wasn’t all easy, and some suffering was involved — this is an event with bikes, after all — but just as things should have gotten grim, something was always dropped on the side of the road to lift your spirits.

First up, was the guitar shredder with a bright orange amp, doing his best Eddie Van Halen impression on the side of the road and the PB&J quesadillas. Then it was the axeman wielding a double-necked guitar picking out a filthy solo to keep spirits high a few kilometres later.

Who could forget the gauntlet of half-a-dozen drum kits way out in the bush set lining either side of the road playing in unison.

Hi Richie! Pretty cool to have the opportunity to mix it up with folks like Richie Porte, Mitch Docker and Gracie Elvin, who all spoke at the Dinner for Legends and rode the event that day.

Doughnut nirvana awaits

But the entire day, we’d heard about the doughnut stop. Nirvana in the bush was deep-fried, cinnamon-covered goodness, waiting to be washed down by Bilson’s Lemonade. From well away, you could hear it, with DJ Andras blasting tunes out into the bush. It’s the one day a year Andras gets to combine his love of bikes and music, and he turned the vibes up to 11, beckoning riders in to indulge in some sweet and sour treats. Skip to 9:30 on the track below for a taste of what was ringing out through the gum trees at 90km in. Pretty hard not to get fired up.

By the time we arrived, the lemonade had run dry, but fortunately, a few kilometres up the road one of the local gin distilleries was out with black Russians and spiced apple crumble nips to keep our motors well lubricated.

Maybe it was the gin talking, or perhaps it was the fact that I’d made it to the final push on a bum gut, but the last 15-or-so kilometres were the most fun. There was a wicker couch with a photographer where everyone stopped to commemorate their ride with goofy poses and shenanigans, leading to a sweeping flowy descent. It was one of the day’s steeper and more technical features, rolling down these sweeping hills and onto the Beechworth to Yack Rail Trail.

With all of the rough stuff behind me, the surface of the Rail Trail was a bit like a magic carpet ride. Fast and smooth rolling before the final kick, up to Beechworth. Day Done, time for some skids, slalom, a parma and some lovely Bridge Road refreshments.

Hey look, it’s Wil! Team Flow having a ball at the Granite Classic.
The final flowing descent. We heard it claimed a few, but we sure enjoyed it.
A refreshing beer after a big bike ride. Not a bad day if you ask us.
The skid course turned out to be way too short, and the winning rider had to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision with spectators.

Lessons from the day

I rode with my partner Lily, who you would call more of a recreational and utility rider. She commutes to work on her flat bar gravel bike and has never done a proper event before. Going in she was a bit stressed and unsure, but Lily had so much fun that she’s already looking for the next one.

Two of my other mates that came along — who shall remain nameless to protect them from embarrassment — between the pair, one decided not to wear knicks, and the other didn’t pump his tyres up before the start or have his pedals sorted out. Each learned a hard lesson on the day, but both finished with sore cheeks from grinning.

All of this is to say that even though the Beechworth Granite Classic has distances to push experienced riders, it’s approachable and fun. If you make a few mistakes, or aren’t prepared, there will be a group of riders there pedalling at your pace to help you laugh through your hardship and give you a high five and a cheers at the end.

And a word to the wise, if you fit wider tyres to your bike in the lead-up, double-check that your chain is long enough.

We’ll definitely be back next year, hopefully with the rest of the Flow Team in tow. Bridge Road has just released the 2024 dates, and the Beechworth Granite Classic will be back April 19-21. See you there folks!

Photos: Georgina von Marburg, Kristina Vackova/Shimano Australia and Erin Davis Hartwig

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