I’m feeling neither disappointed nor ecstatic right now. Ambivalent would probably best describe my mood after stage one in Alice Springs today. Here’s a run down of today’s first stage.
37km of almost entirely single track, I was glad to hydrate well before the race start. Opportunities to eat and drink were few and far between, and after stacking on stage one at Easter, I was careful anytime a hand came off the bars. Typical rocky Alice Springs trails would favour those with good mountain biking skills, and I was a little nervous of getting into a good position early.
A neutral roll out from the Chiefly Resort had the entire field all bunched up following a police escort at about 20-25km/h. Nerves in the peloton were obvious and not reassuring. After about 4km, the escort pulled over and the pace went up. But not for long enough – a massive pileup after a number of riders cut a large corner before we went into the single track. I was lucky enough to avoid all the carnage, but later found out that Chris Hanson had been t-boned. Shit as – he’s a contender (but he made positions back to the front-runners).
After that initial sort out, I found myself in a train of slow-moving cyclists and my frustration was even more evident when the trails went up. Overtaking opportunities were few and far between, and for perhaps near on 10km I just sat in, getting pissed-off at myself for not putting in an effort at the start.
Eventually I started yelling at the guys in front to move over, and there were others keen to get passed, but one individual just wouldn’t yield and slowed everyone. I was okay with taking it easy for a little while, but riding at a recovery pace was not cool with me in a race. It was probably another kilometre before I got a chance to blast past the group, and bar the front guy, they were all really encouraging for me to smash on – clearly they were keen to get past the hubbard too!
About half-way in, I got sight of Aidan… And he was climbing. Perfect for me. A couple of descents kept him out front for quiet a while, and I had another rider licking at my heels too. At one point, it felt like being on safari – hunting down Aidan in his near zebra-striped kit. He wasn’t looking good when I did overtake, but his issue was with flat tyres, not fitness.
I still had plenty of water, so went straight through the water point, only to have Aidan to catch me back up. Clearly I wasn’t riding at my best. I stopped to give Aidan a C02 canister, with 3 riders going ahead as I stopped for those 5 seconds. 25km in, and I just felt like I was lacking.
With concentration on the rocky single-track flailing, and no impetus to try and hit some top end power, Aidan and several others overtook me in the last 8km or so. But I was having fun on the trails, stoked that I’d stayed upright, and was fine throwing down a slower pace for the remainder of the race.
Over the line in about 2:10minutes, I’m unsure of my overall position, but expect to be a long way back from the top ten. If I can get my lungs kicking harder in the next couple of days, I’ll hopefully be able to give ‘er more on the remaining stages. This arvo is will be a short hill climb TT stage, up this : Anzac Hill