I feel like I’m starting to pick up my pace now in Alice Springs, and I’m happy with the speed I maintained for this morning’s 22km individual time trial.
Starting at the golf course, riders were again sent off in 30 second intervals in reverse place order. I was determined to ride fast and smooth, and above all else, I didn’t want to be caught by any higher placed riders! A heinous southerly was blowing for what would otherwise be a fast, flat start, but I did all I could to hold my power high and catch the riders in front before the single track really got going. Having previewed most of the course on Tuesday, I was well aware of places I could claw back time, and areas to avoid costly mistakes.
I overtook the first rider in front of me within a kilometre, and could soon see a group of 3 trading places on fire track up the road. I was strong enough to catch two of them before the single track, and was relieved I had Bill Murphy out front to reel back – he rides smoothly, picks good lines and is exceptionally efficient. Putting in a couple of bike lengths on several short pinches, he let me through kindly on an apex, leaving me to ride hard and not let him catch back on.
A large gap between me and the next riders ahead saw me setting my own pace, but with Bill breathing down my neck on a tricky, switched-back descent, I made sure I really opened up the throttle on anything smooth, and gassed it out of the saddle on anything going skywards.
With the Plains of Mordor stretching out over the horizon, I got a glimpse of two riders in the distance. This encouraged me to hunt them down whilst the course was fast, and a handy tail wind had me sailing along at over 35km/h at times. But I knew that wasn’t fast enough, so whenever the track was really free-running, I pushed the bike up to 40km/h.
Those two riders I overtook quickly, and from there it was a matter of staying level, as more and more riders were in my sights, and it was important to overtake carefully and save energy. Mostly I had it pretty good – but a train of riders up a steep set of switch backs slowed me up a little, and I lost a good bit of momentum trying to get past. But I wasn’t too concerned – they were all riding really well, moving aside with ease and staying upright. I love it when mountain bike events are friendly like this, with everyone helping each other out and pushing each other faster.
I did take a big time hit on Sunset Hill, the largest climb of the day, with a rider in front unclipping on a rock step-up at the start of the climb and staying dead-centre of the track. Forced to dismount myself, I sprinted around him and jumped back on the saddle CX style as soon as the track was smooth. I was kinda annoyed, but decided that the same road blocks would be occurring for faster riders behind me.
At the top of that gradual climb, a wicked, loose descent shot me down towards town. I took it pretty carefully – although it wasn’t especially technical, it was full of small, loose rock that would punish a mistake. Back onto fire trail after that brief, fun interlude, and it became a threshold effort for me until the finish line. Rounding the golf course, I kept my head low and forced myself to try and get the bike over 40 again.
Rounding the last few bends put me in sight of the finish line, and I emptied that tank, my legs turning furiously as I went past a few more riders. I knew I’d put in a solid effort as I couldn’t sprint the finish, but just stayed seated and strong.
I finished the TT in 58:16, in 12th place overall! Stoked as a goat! That means I’ve clawed back good time, and have crept up from 22nd overall, to 15th on GC! Massive confidence boost coming into the remaining stages – I think I might be better recovered from the everesting, and feel that I’m starting to hit my stride again.