Stage race report time! I’m currently in Alice Springs for Lasseters Easter in the Alice MTB stage race. Today was a typical 90km marathon style race, and is part of the national marathon series. It was also a typical start – full gas out of the box. I didn’t muck around today and got myself into a small, fast bunch of elite riders up the pointy end of the field (I’m racing in expert male, a step below elite and comprising the bulk of the entrants). Turned out to be a great move, rolling some quick turns, dropping some distance on the descents, but making it in front on the climbs. About 28km in, the two elites I was riding with gapped me on the technical single track that finally appeared. I wasn’t too concerned, but just focused on trying to ride smoothly. But at the 33km mark, I made a goose of an error. Whilst trying to eat a gel, with one hand on the bar, my foot struck a rock on the side of the single track. A proper blood-gusher on my elbow. Enough blood to fill up my glove when I dealt with it later! I decided to jump back on the bike with some sweet blood squirts still happening, to deal with it at the 40km aid station. But it soon stopped bleeding, and I could see a rider ahead! Turned out I was running 6th overall! The remaining 50km was mostly twisting, rocky single track, with the occasional fire trail. I was very cautious, and rode mostly solo with little food or water and was finally overtaken by an elite rider with 7km to go. Finished the stage in about 4 and a half hours, and afterwards took a trip to the emergency department for 10 stitches. An absolute ripping day, despite my off, and I was stoked to have little non riding time (the stack and water fills cost me some time). The trails here are truly amazing. And to cap it off, I’m in 1st place in my category!
Easter in the Alice – Stage 2. Flat and smashy followed by steep and smashy. This morning was a short stage, but comprised a considerable hill for the last kilometre of the 8km course… Especially tough for us flatlanders from Darwin! A quick roll out to the start of the course and we were all lined up to start off what would be several kilometres of very rough and rocky racing. I decided to jump behind some elite riders in the second row to give me a good, fast wheel to follow. Good move for me – it was a fast take off and I managed to keep with the front 10 riders for the first few kilometres… Stoked to manage that, especially with a couple of unclip moments from rough patches or lack of visibility due to the rising sun. I was gapped about 4km in, but mostly had the leaders in sight. With 1km to go, the rough track stopped and we turned onto bitumen. The flat also stopped and the road went quickly skywards. Perfect for me. I think I went past about 4 riders on the ascent, spinning as comfortably as I could on the 30+% pinches, in an attempt to save some legs for the finish. My size certainly helped, but when I was already on the rivet, it was really just an extended maximum effort the whole climb. I was happy no one got back past me and I could hold the effort to the finish. I’m not sure of my placing, but I suspect 7th overall again. Super happy with my riding, especially with a dinged up body. I’m really loving the event so far and hopefully I can hold position for the remainder 2 stages.
(edit – I finished 6th on this stage)
Easter in the Alice – Stage 3 – Night Crit. Tonight was a thrilling crit race around the local golf course with headlights on… On the buggy track! So much fun! 2 laps of a 5km course meant that the race was most definitely on from the gun. Aidan Geaney and I fumbled slightly at the line, but held place before we hit dirt. But I reckon we dropped at least 5 places and had to fight back after a short segment of blinding dust from forward wheels. A gap quickly pushed out to the race leaders, and I came around everyone in the second bunch to try and bridge the gap with Aidan on my wheel. But there was no catching back, and trying to sustain 40km/h was a tad stressful. Several riders in our second bunch overtook me when I deviated slightly, and I didn’t properly get onto the train until a quarter of the way into the second lap. A quick breather on Aidan’s wheel, and I launched to the front, and sped our group of about 5 back up. Aidan took a good turn, and then old mate came around to give us what could have been a perfect lead out after a short section of small jumps. Whilst I was keeping the rubber firmly planted, old mate styled the first small double, but had far too much pop on the second. Mid-air he knew he had cooked it, and it looked like I was going to sneak through on his right. But when his front tyre hit the deck, he got flung into my path, along with his bike. I endo’d into him and head butted his rump with my helmet, and Aidan luckily got on the brakes and slowed his impact into me, flinging his rear wheel into the rider behind. Fortunately no one injured, and with a messy remount by all involved, we made it over the line without a sprint, but without being caught by any other riders. Probably about 11th on the stage overall, and perhaps a minute or two off the lead group… Racing all over for us in 17 minutes. I’ll be coughing up dust for days just like the old west gate crits! An absolute blast of a stage!
Easter in the Alice – Stage 4 – 50km XC. Late report as I was too busy drinking beers for last night’s “Stage 5”! Yesterday morning was a later start at Telegraph Station, after a neutral roll out from the casino. And boy it was hot! Reports of 42 degrees for the race had many competitors running short of water. Fast start as usual, but with the twist of an immediate crossing of the dry Todd River. Think a beach sprint with over 100 riders jostling for a line. I’d committed to running it early, but didn’t get a great take off, and had to be pretty canny to get around the crowds and remount on the other side. The race leaders were immediately away from me, but I did my best to ride hard and smooth through the single track. An awkward rock garden had me off the bike again with a small tumble, stripping more bark off, but more annoyingly both my bottles fell out as well as my glasses. Back on the bike, staying calm and enjoying the trails eventually got me back up into the top 10. And whilst it seemed everyone struggled with the high heat, I was feeling great and getting water down easily. With less than 2l drunk during the race, I didn’t muck around at water stations, but somehow never felt dehydrated. A couple of overtakes got me further up the field, and strong efforts on fire roads into head winds helped me gap those in pursuit… Road training pays off! A slight delay with about 7km to go to pass James Downing a spare tube after his second flat didn’t cost me any time, but spurred me on to not let him catch me! Familiar trails rounded out the course, and the same finish as Saturday meant I was ready for a sprint finish to make up any seconds possible. About 7th overall again, 1st in my cargo category, and I get to take a chunk of quartz home as prize for the overall win in the expert men category. Can’t wait for another stage race, and with some hard work, might push into the elites.