This morning it was so peaceful waking up to the sound of birds. Yesterday we finished at Mt. Mulligan, a working cattle station, and we couldn’t have asked for a better camping spot – right next to a small lake. Everybody was looking much more relaxed and rested after yesterdays ride in the cooler weather. I still had a boyish grin on my face after an unforgettable helicopter ride over the station with Nadene and my mother. Unfortunately I knew that most of the happy thoughts would be drained out of me during today’s stage from Mt. Mulligan to Maitland Downs.
The first 70km up to the second feed station was quite uneventful as we were in quite a big group of twenty plus riders rolling along on good gravel roads. The only interesting bits were when we hit patches of bull dust (sections of deep fine dust) which made riding your bike feel more like riding a bull. Considering that we were riding in a tight bunch and you can understand why I tried to ride more towards the front.
After feed station 2 the real race started as we hit the big climb of the day. At this point Justin was still in a breakaway with Dominick Hrinkov and I was hoping he could take the win as he really deserved it after all the issues he had on day one and all the support he has been giving me during the stages. Ondrej in the Points leader jersey and Ivan from Rocky Trail Racing however decided that they had enough and went up the climb quite hard after team Tenni’s/SKM. I tried to follow but they were far too strong for me but I did manage to stay (barely) with Wolfgang Krenn. Halfway up the climb I could see Justin’s blue MMTB jersey and I was quite sad when I realised today was not going to be his day.
By the top of the climb we had managed to catch the two Tenni’s/SKM riders but Cory Wallace got away from us and for the next hour he was taunting us with his pink jersey in the distance. The next 30km I really had to dig deep to stay with Wolfgang on the short sharp climbs and I was so glad when we hit the tar section as I knew it would be difficult for the rest of the group to catch up with us. As we hit the last bit of gravel section into Maitland Downs Wolfgang decided he had enough and allowed me to finish in front of him. I was quite thankful for all the help from him as it would have been almost impossible to stay away from my main competition in the masters category.
As always Nadene was there with a big smile, kiss and water. I cannot thank her and my parents for all the support during the race and for them putting up with my morning moods.