‘What if’ – A worded construct that, if allowed, can taunt and tease a person. The phrase has remained omnipresent throughout history to play on the minds of those who could smell victory but instead tasted defeat. At times a bike race can be a metaphor for history, or even life in general. A compression in time that creates its own little world.
The Camelbak Highland Fling creates its own little world in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. Filled with singletrack and gorges, muddy bogs and mountain (hill) passes. It is a blank canvas for battle to be waged. A battle waged for some with the terrain, for some with each other or for some with themself. But, that is why racing is such a great experience, a challenge to be conquered.
Kilometre 25 – Exit Transition 1
Stage 1 has already been quickly disposed of with Kyle Ward and Andy Blair entering transition with a slender lead over a small chase group. After the short neutral zone through Wingello, Kyle Ward has attacked with Anthony Shippard. I have given chase but a slower rider has crashed in front of me blocking my path. Andy goes around the other way and gives chase, as Kyle is his main competition.
My first ‘What If’.
By now Kyle and Anthony have a few hundred metres on me and Andy is at about 50 metres. With 36 X 11 sprinting I try to close the gap but it holds. I settle in for a longer chase. After his lead-out, Anthony pulls off and Kyle is solo with the gap he wanted. Only 85km left.
Over the course of the Fling so many such situations occur. All of which add up to ‘make the race’. You could fill books trying to describe all of these occurrences throughout the field. But, three I know about that created a ‘what if’ moment were:
- Kilometre 17 – Commonwealth games representative Cam Ivory suffers a flat tyre and spends the rest of the race trying to catch back up. Ends up 9th.
- Transition 1 – Lewis Cressy’s support is missing and he misses a feed. Ends in 4th.
- Kilometre 100 – After leading solo for a good portion of the race, Kyle Ward suffers a flat tyre with 8km to go. Agonisingly close to victory – the ultimate ‘what if’ moment.
One rider who doesn’t need to ponder ‘what if’ is the eventual winner, Andy Blair. After a long chase with Marc Williams, Andy broke clear to take his maiden Highland Fling crown. Marc ended up finishing a fine 2nd place with Shaun Lewis rounding out the podium in 3rd.
In the women’s race, Lucy Bechtel from the Bicycle Superstore women’s road team took out the win from Eliza Kwan and Briony Mattocks.
Full results are available online.