Weary bodies lined up outside the Chifley Hotel for the 6th and final stage of the 2015 Redback. For some, the weariness meant the plan was to ‘just survive’ while others more towards the pointy end, this was the final chance for mountain biking glory.
Stage 6 began with a neutral start rolling from the Chifley around the streets of Alice before ducking into a fire-road that encircled the town’s perimeter for a few km prior to hitting the trails for the final time. As soon as the bunch left the road visibility was almost zero as the thick sand and bulldust, it was almost like mustard gas. I’m guessing. Maybe less toxic.
Many of the trails ridden today were ridden yesterday, in reverse, which had the effect of thinking you were riding a whole new trail network. Alice pulled out some of it’s most technical trails for this stage (sheer rock shelf? Drop off’s and technical climbs? Tick, tick and tick.), and when I said yesterday’s trails were some of the best on offer in Alice, I lied. They were definitely showcased today.
Having not had the race I wished to (due to rattling in the ‘ol lungs and the asthma getting a bit too excited the first two days). I was keen to soak up every bit of trail and desert I possibly could before parting ways tomorrow. The lungs were still dubious but the mind was willing. The first half was pretty tough. Heavy legs were definitely a thing and the trails, though awesome, were at times a hard slog. By the checkpoint, however, the group I was riding with were keen to up the tempo, I had ridden into my sore legs and felt great so we smashed the second half to bits, taking turns through the snaking singletrack on the front, we ended up in a sprint finish (sadly, I was third from three). This is exactly what a race like this is about. Win and Paul, i’m sorry I stopped dead in my tracks on that sandpit but didn’t we have some FUN out there today?
You know the feeling when you’re riding with your mates and then you start turning the screws and it get’s a little harder and a little harder until you’re redlining? This is what stage 6 was to me.
Riding with a bunch of guys and girls who have a shared love of all things bike, out for a challenge. 200 competitors means 200 of the best mates I haven’t met yet (well maybe 180 now, i’m pretty social).
In the pointy end of the race, an early flat for James Downing potentially had his second spot in GC up for the taking, but a speed-change and a good dose of determination had him finish in 7th. Was it enough to maintain his position?
While Downing was fixing a flat, Craig Cooke and Ben Hogarth were riding like there was no tomorrow, Cooke obviously out with a point to prove after losing the yellow jersey in yesterday’s disastrous 50km stage.
Speaking with Hogarth, today’s GC leader, he stated he was “playing a bit of a defensive role…Craig was really on the gas today and was willing to take some risks on the rock gardens that I really wasn’t. We got to about the 20km mark and it got pretty tech and he laid down the gas and I just backed it off a couple of percent and just looked after my bike and myself. I ended up dropping about a minute and a half or so but held onto the yellow”. Young gun Luke Pankhurst took third for today (remember his name, he’s a pocket rocket!).
In the overall standings, Cooke’s risks paid off as he clawed his way back to third in the GC, with Hogarth retaining the yellow and Downing riding consistently to second.
In the women’s race, Terri Rhodes had her best ride of the week, while she didn’t quite catch GC rider Holly Harris, it was tight between the two the whole way with around 30sec between them at the end. “I had a great race. I got to the feedzone” said Rhodes “and I was like ‘now i’m racing’ so I went hard from there”. Harris took stage 6 and the GC, being a dominant force throughout the week.
Not surprisingly, Harris took the GC for the women, followed by Rhodes with Kim Willocks in third.
And so wraps up another amazing event in the Alice. I’ll be sad to leave; this place is truly amazing. The one advantage of not having the ride of your life at this event is the ability to slow down and look around you, rather than chewing on your bars, and really admire the truly unique landscape. This is a true mountain biker’s event. If you haven’t experienced the trails of Alice Springs it’s one to put in your ‘must do’ list. I’ll be back for some more bar-chewing adventures next year.
Stage 6 Results
1. Craig COOKE 01:51:52
2. Ben HOGARTH 01:53:59
3. Luke PANKHURST 01:56:57
1. Holly HARRIS 02:08:01
2. Terri RHODES 02:08:28
3. Anna BECK 02:14:44