Well it’s over! As usual I’m left with a mixture of relief that there’s an end to the pain and inability to finish my muesli each morning, and sadness that the adventure is over. Stage races are like that. I’ve heard the only cure for post-stage-race blues is to plan another one, so at least there’s no chance of my falling into a deep depression. I’m racing the Port to Port in NSW’s Hunter Valley and Newcastle in five days’ time!
Jo and I both went hard today. I was really glad for some more close racing – I’m learning a lot about race craft, about mental toughness, and about patience. We rode together the whole race, just about, both of us trying the odd escape, but neither of us gave in. I had a couple of silly crashes, including one where my lockout lever all but removed my bra, and another where a rock took an enormous gouge out of my shoe… are you broken, pinky toe?
Our race ended with a sprint and we both hit the (nearly impenetrable, but such is my sprint) finish tape at the same time – I found out later Jo beat me by 23 milliseconds! Well done – I think that’s fair – she led out the sprint! Jo’s won the race, I’m second, just over 3 minutes back, and Jess Douglas came third.
After a bad day yesterday, Ryan Standish brought all his unfinished business with him to the start line today and climbed back into second place overall, winning the stage. Ben Mather came second, and takes out the men’s event, while ever-consistent James Downing came third today and third in the event. Full results are available via the Rapid Ascent website.
I’m left with an immense feeling of gratitude, and this race has meant more to me than just the singletrack and the competition. After a very tough six months, some of the toughest of my life, where my body simply wouldn’t work – it seems I’m finally getting my mojo back. And I think that’s due more to psychological factors than physical ones – after all I was neither overtrained nor undertrained – just unable to push myself mentally. In short, it’s the atmosphere and the mood of this race that have helped me perform again and enjoy pushing myself in competition once more.
I want to thank the cheerful volunteers who stood out in all kinds of weather in the middle of the desert, spotting our plate numbers then rushing to pass us bottles, especially those quick and nimble youngsters!
I want to thank Rapid Ascent, especially Erica, Rachel, and Claire, who set the tone for the race – friendly, relaxed, and fun, and who ran an exceptionally well-organised event, which included a lot of social functions, too. What genius to start a mountain bike race at a velodrome and finish it with a lap of the local BMX track as we did for yesterday’s marathon. There were lots of little surprises like this that made each day memorable.
Still more I want to thank my female competitors – Jo Bennett and Jess Douglas. I think this week we had the best kind of racing – we pushed each other to the limit, but also had a lot of fun, a lot of laughs. What a great thing to have a tough, close race that was characterised by mutual encouragement and support – and fun.
Then there were the guys. Too often in big East coast races I feel a bit bullied and pushed out on track, even when I’m stopping my own race to give way. Out here though, things are different. The warmth and encouragement I’ve had from the guys has replaced a lot of stress with real joy to be out competing. Thanks too, to the generous men who lent me a wheel, or gave me a shout of encouragement. It makes such a difference and made this race special – and thanks too to James Downing for letting me borrow his track pump at all hours with no notice!
Then there’s the guys who aren’t here. All my friends giving me big support on social media, my dear friend Andrew Demack in Brisbane, my wise coach Anthony Shippard, and the love of my life, Mike. It means so much to hear from you all, so thank you.
Alice is a magical place with a big blue sky, sweet trails, and truly strong community. I wish I could just string race after race together here in the red centre, and never, ever leave.
Tomorrow I fly back to Sydney, but I’ll be back, and I feel like I’ve turned a corner with my racing and self-belief.