A pilgrimage to the Victorian highland town of Beechworth – for the epic Beechworth Granite Classic and a weekend of free-flowing beer, stunning gravel riding, and the inaugural Life in the Peloton Dinner for Gravel Legends.
We are at a unique point in the cycling calendar, heading into the Euro autumn, where there’s a bit of a lull after the intense summer of racing – after the dust has settled on the passion and glory of the Tour de France, and the epic battles of the World Championships, but before the late season races kick off. And since we’re still a few months off the summer of cycling events hitting in Australia. It has been an incredible year of cycling and racing so far, and I’m reflecting on some of the events that I have been part of throughout the year.
One of my favourite this year (and every year) is the premier event on Australia’s gravel calendar – The Beechworth Granite Classic. I spent an epic weekend there earlier this year, in the month of April, before the depths of the Melbourne winter really took hold, and it was nothing short of incredible.
There’s so much to love about this event – pumping atmosphere, great vibes, lots of Bridge Road Brewers beer, and incredible Champagne gravel that makes the tough event just so much fun. What I love most is the camaraderie and the atmosphere, and most of the people that take part make a whole weekend out of it, and I really loved getting involved in the spirit of the event.
For me personally, what I love about this type of event is that they become a whole weekend destination, and it allows you to travel there by bike and explore the country in a kind of pilgrimage with some friends. I decided to do just that, so the adventure started a few days ahead of the event. We set off with a cool group from Shimano – including Paul van der Ploeg, Em Viotto, Karl Michelin-Beard, Matt Bazzano, Will Levy, and Richie Porte. The journey began in the town of Albury and headed towards Mitta Mitta, where we sampled a few local MiddaBitta’s. From Mitta Mitta, we headed on towards Yackandandah and checked out Backwoods distillery there. From Yackandandah, it was onwards and upwards towards the heart of the Granite Classic in the town of Beechworth, where we experienced the incredible new and revived Indigo Epic trail in the highlands there.
Once we arrived in Beechworth, the event was already pumping, and the beer was already flowing, and there was just an incredible atmosphere in the air, where everyone was excited to get involved in the weekend. Beechworth is one of the great little Victorian country towns, full of the remnants of the town’s gold mining history, and culturally a real step back in time, but with a thriving eat and drink scene. The event encapsulates everything that is great about Beechworth and gravel racing in general. The course itself is a challenging one, but there are DJ’s and live music throughout the stunning forestry to keep it fun, there are the famous donuts from the Beechworth Bakery being handed out, and then there’s the pristine Champagne gravel sections of the course – this is what gravel racing is all about and the event just highlights it so well. Everyone is so happy to be there that the spirits are high, in my opinion this is really the premium way to experience gravel racing in Australia.
Once the event was over, we jumped off the bike and straight into the inaugural Life in the Peloton’s – Dinner for Granite Legends – where we had some great guests including Richie Porte, Gracie Elvin, Rupert Guinness, and Brett Lancaster. It was an awesome mix that had some fascinating things to talk about, like racing gravel, their time in the Tour de France, and other various stories from different legends of the day. The food was great, and the Bridge Road Brewers x Life in the Peloton beer was released and flowed steadily all night. We finished the night with a good old-fashioned pub quiz and plenty of laughs to round out an epic weekend. To top it all off, the BRB Life in the Peloton beer sold out that weekend and came with some great feedback.
This weekend was a special one for me, it’s one of my favourite events and it got me excited as we kick off again with some great events on the horizon for the Aussie spring and autumn in the rest of the world. I will be locking it into the calendar for 2024, so I hope to see you out there!