Following stage two’s emotional roller coaster of a blown shock and yo-yo-ing between Henry and I, I was ready for a relaxed stage, hoping to follow Henry around and enjoy the scenery for the final stage. Unfortunately, Alice had something else in mind: teaching me a lesson about double checking schedules the night before.
A change in schedule meant we started 30minutes earlier, so while sitting in my room eating breakfast I heard the commentator over the loud speaker, looking out the window I could see everyone lined up ready to race!
Running around the room like a headless chicken, grabbing socks, multitool, helmet etc, I rushed down to the start and jumped straight onto my bike with only a few minutes to spare. Thankfully I had checked my bike and gear the night before, and had it layed out ready to go, otherwise I’m sure I would have spent the day chasing. However none of my usual morning checks got done, so my tyre pressure was unchecked, I didn’t look over strava maps for a race plan, or do my usual warmup (foreshadowing?…)
From the start, the race left the Double Tree Hilton, and wound passed the golf course, ducking into an overflow drain and following it along, this was really cool! Then we left Alice Springs town, and headed along firetrails into the golden sunrise, I was thankful to have Henry and Owen to follow, avoiding the rocks and grass, before ducking onto single track. It was clear Henry was on a mission here, and with my blown shock I was cautious through the rocky sections, where he would open up small gaps, that I would gradually close. Owen began to fade behind, and Henry pushed on, flowing through some of the best singletrack of the race, before I went to the front and began pushing the pace myself to open the gap to the rest of the field; hoping to put some pressure on Henry so I could take the descents a little cautiously, however cruising down a straight section of trail, I heard that signature “BANG, tssssss”. Some panicked, choice words later, and I was pulling over to repair my flat. This is where my inexperience with stage races, and puncture repair became obvious, as instead of remaining calm and going through the process, I tried to hit the tyre with CO2 before plugging both holes, and wasted much of my CO2. Finally after plugging one hole, the tyre was still leaking, so I pulled the valve core out and filled the tyre with sealant, before finally finding the puncture in the bead of the tyre. I plugged this, and it immediately stopped leaking air, however now my CO2 was empty and my tyre was running similar pressure to before the flat, not exactly confidence inspiring! Now I’m sure Owen at RideMechanic is having a heart attack reading this, since this is nearly the opposite of his order of operations, so once I get home I’ll be practicing my tyre repair at length… However the point still stands, that my tyre was repaired, and after using another CO2, both wheels were holding at well over 30PSI, and more reliably than a tube.
Back to racing! By now I was quite some distance behind, and so I attacked the trails with a vengence, chasing hard, and gradually reeling riders in. I was a little dissapointed not to take in the incredible views, but I knew I would be more dissapointed to lose the overall to my own mistakes, so I pressed on. Finally I saw Owen Chenhall in the distance, and knew Henry couldn’t be too far in front, I caught Owen just on the line, and so the nervous wait began, as we waited for official results.
In the women’s race it was another strong demonstration from Nicola Jelinek, but still a race of tactics and local knowledge!
“Briony, she’s good on that firetrail stuff, she rides lots of road, but I stayed with her, and then there’s a little bit you can go two ways, she took the tricky way and I got in front, and just gunned it! Then it was the single track that I really like, and know, so I felt pretty confident, and went hard on the way back.
Nicola took all three stages, and the overall, with Briony not far behind in second.
Unofficial overall results:
Nicola Jelinek 1st, Briony Mattocks 2nd +8.40, Kimberly Douglass +1.13.15
Sam Fox 1st, Henry Hacket 2nd +1.46, Owen Chenhall 3rd +12.43