Hamelin Bay hosted the finish of stage 1, and consequently the start of stage 2. What we know of beach resorts is that they are sea-level, meaning a climb to get out. Sure enough, the first 3km of bitumen pretty much just went up. A few snapped chains under the pressure (probably ruined in the sea and sand of yesterday) made for exciting times in the early bunch, but soon enough, everything settled down.
The race hit the dirt and some of the longest stretches of singletrack I have ever ridden. Snaking down and down, then up and around, the race stayed together. Obviously, it was key to be on a ‘good wheel’, and I found myself with World Eliminator champ (resplendent in his rainbow jersey) Paul van der Ploeg, and World Cup winner. Dan McConnell. Pretty safe wheels to be on!
We snaked around for miles, beautifully buffed trails making a change from yesterday. At various points, someone would miscalculate a bend or a stick, and find themselves off the bike in the soft dirt. Mark Tuplaski mustn’t have slept well last night, and he seemed very keen to lie down in the dirt, making a few attempts to find a soft bed! (Ed: it turns out ‘Tupac’ suffered an unfortunate mechanical from some blow down, badly damaging his bike and costing a lot of time.)
In the women’s race, all the contenders were together, other than Jenni King. Unfortunately for her, a stick decided it wanted to come for a ride, and chose a space between the spokes of her front wheel to stow-away. She was ejected through the front door, and it took the wind from her sails. As a result, she was the big loser of today.
After a feed and the end of the singletrack, we found ourselves motoring along beside vineyards covering ground at an alarming rate on an MTB. I was detached with about 20k to go and had to wait for the next group, so similar was it to a road race.
Up at the front the leaders had stayed together, and. Kyle Ward towed them into a sprint. He had no choice really, as he was under geared for a sprint finish, so just chose to drive hard, as his nearest competitor in the GC, Tupalski, was still chasing back from another roll in the dirt.
Pete Hatton took the sprint over Shaun Lewis, with Brendan Johnston coming in for 3rd. Andy Blair rolled over in 4th comfortably defending the leaders jersey. Not much of a shake up in the men’s, although the TORQ pair of Forbes and Tupalski both lost a bit of ground.
In the women’s race, everything was together until Fay dropped the hammer. Renowned for being a driver on rolling fire roads, it was too much for the other girls, and she rode off for the win. Peta Mullens and Tory Thomas rolled over together for Trek, and this result will see Peta move up the standings. Jo Bennett pushed hard to keep the gap as small as possible, but at the time of writing the GC hasn’t been updated to reflect results. It will be tight.
Tonight sees the special stage – The Red Bull shoot out. A timed downhill / Four cross /pump track descent. Time bonuses available, but also some considerable risk – last year saw three of biggest hitters crash out, all sustaining injuries that would affect them the next day.
Fingers crossed everyone keeps it rubber side down tonight.
I’m off to the beach……..