Day 2 of the Outback Cycling Easter in the Alice began in the backyard of the official race hotel and sponsor the Double Tree Hilton, Alice Springs. Meaning many riders whom were staying here were awarded a slightly extended sleep in and the ability to roll down the elevator and straight onto the start line. A good warm up for those of the older style of warm up (stay in car/room with heater on). With all 3 open stages of this race being of the same distance (40km) riders had a good indication of how much effort they could push into those pedals for the stage distance.
The start line had a brisk breeze blowing across it which was stirring up the dust of the dry desert landscape that was about to be raced through. At over 600m above sea level Alice Springs has a somewhat complicated climate. Although summer’s are brutally hot. winter evenings and mornings can be extremely cold with winter minimums often into the sub freezing temperatures. This morning was an indication of the change of season currently in swing for this part of the world.
The wind was no deterrent to current race leader Andy Blair from Canberra who put his well honed bike handling skills to good use as a strong tailwind greeted riders for the first singletrack section, granting the riders with the skills extra speed to rip into the corners and descents. For those not so confident, this was unwanted speed that made the approach to some corners more difficult than they would otherwise have been. The younger local trio of riders appeared to approach today’s stage in a more conservative matter in order to manage their effort for the full stage. Henry Hackett and Oliver Hartung would end up in a very close battle for the entire duration of the stage today. Oliver and Henry would finish 4th and 5th respectively. Up front, Andy Blair consolidated his lead with 2nd GC rider your author here Justin Morris again chasing to finish 2nd. Blair stated that the conditions today worked to his strengths “it reminded me of racing here when I was much younger and stronger”. The standout performance was from Cairns rider Bernard Cossar- Smith who held onto 2nd position until only the closing kilometres finishing in 3rd overall today.
The women’s racing again proved to be a duel between mates Anna Beck and Briony Mattocks. The 2 did not let each other out of sight for the duration of the race, coming into the finish in a sprint which was taken out by Mattocks whilst Beck maintains the overall leaders jersey with 1 stage remaining. Karen Hill had a strong ride today improving on her result from yesterday to come home in 3rd today. Full results here.
Riders were greeted with food and a pool party of sorts at the finish line in the facilities of the Hilton hotel. It was here that the selection for the next event took place. The top 20 riders on GC were invited to compete in a 15minute ‘shoot out’ around the hotel grounds where a mid race prime cash prize and finishing cash prize were up for grabs. Again, the race proved to be a lesson in managing effort with many riders going out at a very fast pace for the opening laps of the 400m course and then succumbing to the early effort and being lapped out by eventual winner Andy Blair. Your author here again did his best to close the gap to Blair unsuccessfully coming in 2nd place in both the prime and finish line prize.
An extra short crit style stage like this is a nice addition to stage races and can often reward riders of differing strengths to the longer stages in a stage race. In this instance it provided something exciting for a spectator experience also.
Tomorrow’s stage involves a 6.30am start and with a predicted temperature of 7degrees celcius, clothing and equipment will be a decisive choice for many racers.