Glass Walls

Immediately afterwards I felt dizzy. Soon after that I was still shaking and my legs were sore. By lunch time my legs were shot. All after beginning a new training programme this morning with Matt, commencing with an FTP test.

I’ve done an FTP test a couple of times before, on the home trainer and in front of Zwift. The first couple of times were mere attempts, with the connection between my power meter and laptop dropping out, or simply popping before 20 minutes had elapsed. This morning’s was different – I had a coach, the equipment was there, and I had a better understanding of what I’d be getting myself into. Briefly, FTP (Functional Threshold Power) is the highest average power a cyclist can maintain over an hour. Typically, a 20 minute test is used, and 95% of your average power over the 20 minutes is taken as your FTP. This will serve as the base line for my training over the coming months.

I met Matt at the shop at 5:30am, and he proceeded to set my bike up into a stationary trainer (this one). An excellent set-up, as I would be using my own bike and power meter – so everything can be transferred onto the road. After a 20 minute warm up, consisting of some easy pedalling and a few harder efforts, Matt then worded me up for what he wanted out of the 20 minute test.

And he threw a curve ball at me – no data! I would have no monitor to look at, nor would I be able to utilise my Garmin for reference. No heart rate, no timer, no power! And it was brilliant. I don’t know if it made the effort easier or harder, but having no numbers to look at, I was forced to feel it out and judge my riding. Matt would occasionally act the clock, letting me know either how much time had been covered, or how much time was left (are you a glass half full, or half empty kind of person?).

“Half way!”

“Thirteen minutes in”

“Only one quarter left”

“Thirty seconds to go”

Make it stop!
Make it stop!

And this interspersed with,

“Come on!”

“Lift it!”

“You’re doing well!”

“Give it all you’ve got now!”

“Empty it!”

He also made a poignant comment just before the test. It’s something I had worked out through endurance rides, but will now start to apply it more to the riding I want to get better at.  The brain will want to give up when the muscles are capable of giving more. I need to break through the glass walls.

With the 20 minutes covered, I found myself breathing heavily. Head dizzy. Hands shaking. Heart pounding. I was left to spin out my legs with sweat streaming all over me, and a few moments to compose myself before getting off the bike. Only after that did Matt approach me with congratulations and some numbers. Numbers I’m not going to publish just yet – I’m not going to be a total Froomey about my data, just a little bit. I plan on doing another test at the end of the 3 months, and will have a comparison to share at that point. Until then, I will reveal that I don’t think I could have gone any harder during today’s test. My FTP was considerably higher than when I measured it myself using Zwift, but it is perhaps lower than what some of you may expect. And most importantly, I have been reassured by Matt that I will improve.


Chandler Highway to Top of Yarra Street

One of the early segments I worked towards topping runs from Chandler Highway, along the boulevard, and to the top of Yarra Street. I’d sum it up as an undulating time trial, followed by a short steep pinch – just when you think the pain is done, you cop a kick in the guts whilst you’re on the ground.

I think I stumbled upon the segment by accident one ride, and proceeded to slowly chip away at my time. On October 30th, I was fairly close, but didn’t feel warmed up enough and faced a predominant head wind. The following day a northerly was considerably more favourable, so i went out to have another crack after a bit of a warm up.

I didn’t have a power meter at the time, but I was keeping an eye on the live segment on the Garmin screen. Taking it relatively easy up the first climb (by relatively easy, I mean the fastest I’d ever ridden up there), holding over 40km/h up that 3%. I was feeling great, and didn’t notice my heart rate getting up to 185bpm – a sure sign everything was firing, but I wasn’t going to blow up.

I’d gained a 6 second lead, but was well aware of the fact I would need to maintain a good speed on all the downhill segments. And I did loose some time on that first downhill, and on the next uphill – not exactly a confidence boost, but I was still on par for my best time, so I kept hammering away. Brilliant, because as I rounded Cornering Speed Test, things got substantially easier!

Thus far, the northerly had been giving me next to nothing, but after that corner I could feel a noticeable difference in wind direction, and could suddenly hold a lead with less effort. I was convinced that I could take this one, and at that moment decided to save my legs for Yarra Street. It was a winning move.

The whole segment is really easy to blow yourself up on – go to hard early, and you could find yourself hitting lactate half way up Yarra Street (or earlier). Take it too easy, and you will need to fly up that final pinch. This time, my effort was measured perfectly, and I was able to maintain something of a sprint to the final corner, almost hitting my maximum heart rate. All over in 5:56s and the KOM in the bag with 8 seconds to spare.

I haven’t ridden that exact segment since, and am definitely expecting to receive an email notification of someone getting a better time. But I’d love to try and better my PB if the opportunity arises.

Average Speed – 37km/h

Max Speed – 51.1km/h

Min Speed – 15.1km/h (I don’t normally list this, but wanted to give an indication of what it’s like to hit Yarra St!)

Average Heart Rate: 177bpm

Max Heart Rate: 188bpm

Smoking a Cigar

Learn to Fly

The bullet is clenched between my teeth, cold and metallic. It’s time to clamp down. After almost two years of solid riding, and improvement well beyond my expectations, I’ve decided to properly turn my focus towards getting faster on the bike, and am employing the expertise of a coach and a structured routine.

Three months of solid training is my commitment. No ridiculous rides. No hitting Strava segments for the sake of a crown (but let’s be honest, I’ll work this into the training somehow). No destroying myself with no recovery. No beer (that won’t happen either, but I’ll tone it down some). My aim is to transform myself from a cyclist that can perform on occasion, hitting some good numbers, into a cyclist that is race ready and mentally prepared to win.

I expect massive difficulties that will need to be overcome to reach my goals (I won’t go into them yet). I’m basically a rider who has been cycling for 25 years, but had a 23 year taper. It’s really in the last couple of years that I’ve turned my attention fully to wheels, and much of the riding I have done has been inconsistent, random, but above all, interesting and exciting. But with such a broad spectrum of cycling challenges in such a short time, I don’t know how well I will adjust to a structured regime with, “training”, and “recovery”, and “stress scores” and “sleep”! I’m going to attempt to ride smart, and not just like a smart arse.

I’ve decided to take up help from Matt King, a local Darwin rider. Do a google search, and you won’t get a huge amount of hits. But you should discover that Matt was an U23 National TT champion in 2008 (and 2nd in the road race the same year). He is no longer a professional, and is only recently getting into coaching, but I am confident that he will help me improve immensely in three months. And being in Darwin, I have the advantage of regular face-to-face time – something you can’t really get with the modern online coach.

Things kick off this week, and I’m taking it easy until some testing Tuesday morning. Thank fuck I’m still buggered from the combined efforts of the last everesting and The Redback – spinning the legs is about all I feel like doing right now. And before I sign off on this post, it’s worth noting that in early April last year, I was certain I’d maxed out my potential – oh boy, did I learn otherwise…. Suffice to say I’m excited to see where the improvements go.


Back to Training

Ergh. When I thought my legs were getting faster, and I was getting over that last everesting, I’d actually been building up more fatigue from stage racing.

It’ll be good in the long run, but I could barely last 20 minutes on Zwift yesterday morning, and Hour of Power this morning was an exercise in mental stamina (I was sure I wouldn’t be able to hold on). It’s probably about time I got onto Training Peaks and learn about training stress scores – it might be useful, or it might scare the crap out of me. It’s easy to get caught up and bored looking at numbers all the time, but I’m keen to do some high intensity racing in the next few months, so training appropriately and being more conservative with mammoth rides will only help.

Redback Stage 6 – 38km XC

Cold, wet, tacky and fun sums up the last stage of the Redback mountain bike stage race for me. On the fourth day of racing, my strength and fitness finally made a good appearance, and I had by far my best race this time around in Alice Springs.

I’m not sure why, but the course was shortened to about 38km for the stage, but it was still an excellent mix of some incredible single track and fast fire roads. With cool temperatures and storms bringing the most rain I’ve seen in months, conditions were somewhat challenging for those of us acclimatised to warmer weather, but extra grip basically everywhere made a lot of the track super fast.

Another neutral start behind a police car from the Chiefly had the bunch doing a small, slow loop on wet roads, before dropping in fast to a sketchy stretch of dual trail. Many riders were tentative again, meaning I was easily able to place myself close to the front of the bunch.

Within a few hundred metres, however, a split emerged in the field. Not because of a high pace, but because of navigation uncertainties – a few of the lead guys went left, a few right. I chose right, but was quickly corrected and bashed cross country to get to the right fork. Fortunately the front runners sat-up, and I got myself into an even better position than before.

Soon after that, I had a small fall as Courtney Atkinson had a rider stop right in front of him – putting the two of us on our arses. It didn’t really cost either of us anything, and with Matt and Aidan riding through, I was able to get a place back in the line.

More frustrating for me, at perhaps the 4km mark, my seat-clamp loosened off again, tilted the nose of my saddle a few degrees upwards. This has happened in a race before, so I was kicking myself for not checking the tension before the stage, and I was well aware of the time I’d loose sorting it out. I decided to put up with it and deal with it only if the angle became unbearable.

Within 5km of the race start, Matt blasted past Aidan and I, and I soon took off in pursuit of the lead bunch, still within a hundred metres of so. Aidan was looking cold on the bike, and I was hopeful that he’d make a recovery (which he did). Plenty of climbing at the start of the stage sorted me well, and I figured that would be my best chance of a higher placing.

It must have been the 8km mark when I caught back to Matt with James Downing on his wheel. I followed the pair for quite a while, but was feeling really strong on the climbs and wanted to blast ahead. Taking the sensible option, I followed their lines on the flats and downhills, with Matt eventually pulling over to wait for Aidan. James’ wheel was a good one to follow again – not so much because of his pace, but because he was easily finding the course in places I may have lost the way. On the climbs, I’d be right on his wheel, but then drop slightly back on the descents and flats.

Perhaps half way into the race, the two of us caught up to Courtney, sitting on a bit of a rock ledge having lost the track. James found the right line through some quite technical, rocky single track, and we now had a group of 3 for a few kilometres.

Into the drink station, James and Courtney had put a bit of a gap into me. Trying to power through the flat sections of course with the saddle in a sub-optimal position was not ideal. I found myself clawing James back on the climbs, but never close enough to hold his wheel again.

With under 10km to go, Stephen Allegria caught my wheel, and the pair of us rode almost the remainder of the race together. He was trying to make up time to get into 3rd place in the over 40s, and I was trying to catch up in the GC on the same rider, so it made sense to me to try and stay together. Unfortunately, he had a fall on a tricky piece of single track, but was unharmed and managed to overtake me on the long descent towards the finish line.

Image courtesy of Rapid Ascent
Image courtesy of Rapid Ascent

Cresting any climb now brought a serious chill to the chest, as a now wet jersey clung to your skin. I was tempted to stop to take off my streaky glasses, and my hands were beginning to chill enough to make braking difficult. But with only a few kilometres left, I was prepared to put up with minor discomforts.

The single track in those closing kilometres was incredible. And the rain proved only to make it better, with superior grip on every corner and less lose, sketchy gravel. A tail wind brought me home on the final stretch of fire road into Telegraph Station, and with the thought of gaining some more time, I sprinted to the line solo and into 11th place on the stage, securing 13th overall for the race.

Last Stage

The Redback – Stage 5 – 47km XC

I’m going to be sad to head home after this race, because I’m getting in the groove. A few mistakes cost me time on today’s stage, but some smooth, strong riding at times was a real confidence boost.

Today’s stage was a 47km, pretty typical cross country race, with some amazing desert single, interspersed with fast fire trails. Head winds were brutal at times, and the trails were often rocky and technical, but all round there was fun to be had in considerably lower temperatures than the opening stage.

Bash brothers before stage 5
Bash brothers before stage 5

With another mass start by the Todd River, I placed myself in the second row, cold, but ready to fang it off the start line. Riders were perhaps shaken up after the pile-ups on stage one, and again there was no need to fight for position. I settled in somewhere in the top twenty, and allowed the riders in front to set a good tempo, somewhere off the lead bunch. I was glad to see Aidan Geaney and James Downing not far ahead – both good wheels to follow with strengths to complement my own.

Up the first proper climb of the day, a long, twisting slog, I was two riders back from Aidan, and was tempted to go around at least one of them. The pace wasn’t too hot, and I was feeling very good. Down the first descent, I was still in contact, but then a small mishap. Burying my front wheel on an innocuous corner, I came down, hitting my right leg against the bike frame and dislodging a water bottle. Luckily no harm done apart from a bit of frustration.

Remounted and pacing myself back, Aidan and the other two were not far ahead, approaching a long climb on a fire trail I recognised from Easter, and one I knew Aidan hated. Urging myself on, I was very close to catching back on.

Back onto some tricky single track, I could see and hear riders both ahead and behind – it was obviously bunching up again. And then the surprise we were warned about – some “old school” single track thrown into the mix. I actually really like this section of over grown trail, but a lack of trail markings made navigation similar to the Tokyo Subway system – you can get anywhere, but the fastest way is not necessarily your first choice. At least six riders overtook me through here.

With the hope that the fast riders ahead had made the same mistakes, I pushed on to get past most of the riders that took the right lines. Gapping most of them on another climb, I caught sight of Aidan labouring around the other side of the hill. I was sure I could latch back on!

Some tricky descents and washed-out single track left me on my own for some time, and not far before the first drink stop, Matt King was pulled over on the side of the track, dealing with 100s of bindies lodged all over the front of his body from what might otherwise have been an easy fall. Ouch!

Reaching that first drink station, a marshall urged me on with, “the bunch in front have 30 seconds”. Not needing more water, I blasted through to some fast single track, trying to gain some time. But then I almost blew myself up. On a climb I should have hit like a whippet on a sugar high, I lost a lot of confidence seeing several riders biting at my ankles. Fuck.

I threw down whatever power I had left to try and stay out front for as long as possible. With a descent looming, I called to the rider behind that I would let him pass as soon as I could. With a nice pullover between switchbacks, I heard, “thanks Pete, go well”. I didn’t realise until he was already ahead that it was James Downing. Definitely a wheel I wanted to follow on the technical stuff!

Spurred on by following a much more proficient rider, I descended better than I have all race. And I kept him in sight for at least a couple of kilometres. I really felt like I was getting my marathon legs back, and was still confident of gaining some places.

More fire trail of doom had a rider catching me up, but likewise I could again see James ahead having stopped at the 2nd drink break. Close to town, I traded places with the rider behind a couple of times, catching a quick draft up an awful, head-winded section of tarmac. Allowing him to take the lead in the next section of single track, I was unable to maintain his pace, but always had him in my eyesight.

One last ascent of Sunset Hill, and I got a glimpse of Aidan and a trail of riders behind him. I was catching! And the trail was climbing! Stoked as a goat. I hadn’t realised that it was Sunset Hill, approached from a different side, but was hoping the track would keep going up to increase my chances. But before long, the the course sent us downwards, and the descent was immediately familiar.

Knowing the finish line could not be far away, I rode the descent as smoothly as I could, and hammered the bike as best I could through the “whoop-di-doos”, before a u-turn at the golf course sent me into a new section of sand traps. No longer confident of a catch, but thinking about the overall time, I pedalled away hoping no one would catch.

The finale was a long section of bike path with a mother flippin’ tail-wind. Ace! I could see two riders in front, one the rider that had only recently leap-frogged me, and another from New Caledonia that I’d been able to best on the night stage. Getting as aero as I could on a mountain bike, I cranked it well over 40km/h for a sustained effort reminiscent of Bagot Road in Darwin at the end of the Hour of Power bunch ride. Giving it all when you’re already feeling cooked is not easy, but when you have a carrot out front, your mind does take some burden off your legs.

Roaring past him at 45km/h, there was only a few hundred metres to go, and I rounded the last few corners of the car park and over the finish line in 14th place and a time of 2:23:11, not far off two riders in front, but a couple of minutes from making more of a dent. I’ve gotta say, I’m really enjoying this racing caper again – if more of my competitors here realised what I’d done a couple of weeks ago, I’m sure there’d be many, “wtfs” exchanged. 43km remaining.

Stage Five

The Redback – Stage Four – Night Lap

“That was fucking rad!” was the very first thought in my head as I crossed the finish line of stage four – a mass start night lap of that morning’s course.

Finish line
Finish line

Us Darwin boys were rugged up more than anyone else on the start line; under jerseys, arm warmers, gillets, and even knee warmers in Bill’s case. Most of the field stuck to the same kits they were wearing through the heat of the day. Six months ago, I might have done the same – fair to say I’m acclimatising to Darwin!

I was nervous about the mass start – but needn’t have been. Slow to clip-in, I was also in too large a gear to get moving with cold legs. But it didn’t matter – the first half kilometre seems to sort out the field easily for the first thirty riders (I’m not sure what was happening further back). I was happy to be sitting pretty in the first fifteen to twenty places, and the pace was very sedate for a 22km ride.

Rounding a bend in the golf course, I spotted Matt make a break for the front, and the pace increased. Not enough to make it too hard to hang on, but enough to start splitting the field, and for the next 2km I found myself leap frogging up the field.

By the time the train of riders had made the single track, it looked like a string of faerie lights twisting around the hills – this is where it pays to get up the front. The front bunch was pulling away, and gaps were opening up with the riders directly in front no longer holding wheels. Working my way past, I could see that catching the front runners would now be far fetched, so settled myself into a good rhythm, with riders neither very close behind or in front.

I let some riders through on the first tricky descent – a mistake, as I found myself catching them over the plains for several kilometres, and would later storm ahead. But the riding was spectacular! Such a cold, clear night allowed a blanket of stars above if you were brave enough to look up, and an enormous, red moon was rising over the horizon.

My riding wasn’t as smooth as the morning, but had more abandon, and I was probably stomping down the descents with more speed. I couldn’t hold the same speeds on the flats either, but with sand traps very difficult to spot, and not wanting to bury a wheel on a loose corner, the sensible thing was to gradually reel in the group of three in front of me.

Catching onto this small group, I was able to conserve some energy and still ride at a good pace. Up and over a little pinch, I could tell I was climbing much stronger, but would not be able to hold them off on a descent. A bit of luck came my way as two of the riders overtook the leader. But they didn’t drop him. So none of them were necessarily any stronger than the others.

As it bunched very close on some fire trail, with a very awkward 130 degree left turn, I took my chance and accelerated past all three of them and kept up a higher pace. Stressed I’d made a mistake, with sand traps now everywhere and three riders lighting me up from behind, I kept grunting through to stay in the lead. And I must have broken two of them, because up sunset climb, only one rider was on my wheel.

Some locals were up the top with a bonfire and beers. I knew they would be offering beers to everyone coming through, so I thought I’d initiate the humour and ask for one. Of course, not wanting to actually stop when I was racing so well, I said I’d come back for it (I didn’t, but opted to drink some with a parma after the race). With the rider still just behind on the loose descent, I almost crashed on one corner, but kept on top of the bike and rode only a little slower than the morning.

A few “whoop-ti-doos” at the bottom of the descent signalled the very fast approach to the finish. Still concerned of being caught, but seeing no one ahead, I buried myself around the golf course, but not so much as to be caught by surprise in a sprint. Fears unfounded, I powered away from the rider one place behind, and could barely make out the exact finish line coming from pitch-black dessert into a lit-up golf course. “Fuck that was rad!”

In a time of 1:00:46s, only two and a half minutes slower than my ITT, I placed 13th on the stage, roughly where I’d expected. A little annoyed I didn’t try and hold the front wheels, but very pleased I’m still in 15th overall and have put in a good gap to 16th. Stage Five will be a longer one at 47km – if I’m truly recovering, I’ll be better suited to a longer day in the sun.

Redback Stage Four

The Redback – Stage Three – Individual TT

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.

Bill Murphy and Aidan Geaney after the stage. 19th and 10th places respectively
Bill Murphy and Aidan Geaney after the stage. 19th and 10th places respectively

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.

22km ITT

Redback Stage Two – Anzac Hill Climb

Fast, but not flying.

I had a ball on this afternoon’s stage – a time trial up Anzac Hill in the middle of Alice Springs. Averaging 9% over 350m on a sealed road, it was an uphill sprint, with riders setting off in 30 second intervals. I was quietly looking forward to the stage, having no grand expectations, but I love the idea of the stage. Against the clock. Uphill. Flat-out. Done.


Most riders made little modification to their bikes, as per race rules, but I’d hazard a guess that most ditched all their spare bits n bobs and pumped tyres up to a gazillion psi. Having found out I finished the morning’s stage in 22nd place, I was due to start at exactly 5:39pm. Glen and Bill had already started before me, with Aidan, Matt and Chris behind and in that order.

I’d scouted the climb with Bill yesterday, and loved the winding nature of the ascent, with no clear visibility of the summit. An event staffer held my saddle as I prepared to take-off, and at 5:39 I cranked over a big gear before settling onto the seat for the first 50m of shallower gradient.

Perhaps 100m into the climb, there is a sharp, cambered turn that simultaneously kicks up in steepness, and just before this point I opted to get out of the saddle and push harder. I felt pretty aero off the start, but now it was time to get the bars moving!

Gear selection was probably crucial, and I was satisfied that I’d picked the right one as I banked the corner in  the right lane, and was able to maintain the effort. A crowd was forming further up the climb, but I was busy chewing my stem and urging myself on. It didn’t feel like I was really giving it everything, but it also felt far from slow. Still out of the saddle, and trying to give it more with 50m to go, the crowd now surging, I took a peek at my Garmin to check my time, to discover I was way off KOM pace. Also at this moment, my right foot unfortunately unclipped from the pedal, forcing me back into the saddle and searching for re-entry.

So close to the finish line, but with some sharp, steep corners still to go, I felt forced to stay seated to keep my momentum up and couldn’t stand for a final effort. No matter – I was soon at the finish in a respectable 55 seconds, probably a couple of seconds off what I might have done had a stayed clipped in, and certainly a long way off my potential. But I was satisfied. In the scheme of the event, it made little difference to overall standings, and I was happy to put in a fast time, if not my best.

Matt held the lead with a time of 45 seconds, but soon lost it to a flyer by young Luke Pankhurst of 42 seconds, equally the course record set by Ben Mather a previous year. Most impressive to me was Aidan, giving me a flogging with a time of 52 seconds on his hardtail – awesome redemption for what should have been an amazing time for him this morning had it not been for several flats.

Another individual TT tomorrow morning, but this time on a 20km course of a fairly technical nature. Looking to hit my stride tomorrow, but I know it’ll be a tough course to set a good time.

Anzac Hill Climb

The Redback – Stage One

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

Redback – Stage One