Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Alice Springs Enduro - Day 4 Saint Teresa to Alice Springs - 88km

The Queen stage. That is how the 'major' or 'biggest' stage of a stage race is often referred to. Why, not sure, but if I am bored later (more than likely) I will Google it.  This stage was 88km over what was stated as being flat. 400m vertical climbing of flat. That means one thing. It could be relatively quick.

An early start had us bussed out in the darkness that was only illuminated by the sun trying to raise its self up over the ranges. The day before we had placed our bikes in the hands of the organisers who decided to double the value of the semi trailer hauling them out to the race start for us.

This box was massive. Andrew probably could live in it if he wanted to.

Ok, your bike goes in here with 200 other ones

The day before, I had discussed our race plans for Team Cannondale. Andrew and I discussed every possible scenario that we could think of. The morning of the race, we discussed some more with Kyle Ward.  In our final pedal strokes of the warm up, Andrew said "you know, I reckon everyone will have the same idea and none of our plans will pan out". I responded, "yeah, more than likely".

At 7:30am we were underway and due to the flat nature of the race, we were hauling along quite nicely. The bunch at this stage was probably 50 or so, and had the 'washing machine' nature where people are just jockeying for clean air, or a fat person to sit behind to keep out of the wind.

It seems that everyone got the same memo that stated "no attacks will be allowed to go off the front this morning" - that was Plan A gone. So, it turned into a standard first hour of a marathon race. Ie - the initial selection moment. Tempo was upped, dudes and chicks dropped off and then we were down to nine. Blair, Lewis, Hall, myself, Bennett, Marshall, Hanson, Hogarth and Crosbie. In the first hour we managed to cover 34km. That's not bad in a mtb race.

The next hour had a few hills, some sand, some creek crossings, some corrugations and some fences to cross.

Throw the bike, then throw yourself.

Driving along the main thoroughfare between Alice Springs and Santa Teresa.

We sort of stayed in a holding pattern for a while, Hogarth dropped off, Hanson had a flat and we were then down to 7. The pace was still high, but manageable, until we hit another fence. This one was about the 80km mark or so I think. Shaun scurried under as if he was burrowing a wombat tunnel and then gassed it. Being in  5th or 6th place at the fence, it took a huge effort by Crosbie, Marshall and myself to get back on. My heart rate was showing 183bpm for this section just totally dangling off the back. The corrugations, bumps and horse footprints were mental through this section.  

I had just caught back on when we were stopped dead in our tracks by a woman on a horse that was not happy to see a bunch of cyclists. The horse was spooked so we gave it some space, and got going again. 

At this stage we were less than 5km to go according to the Garmin, so Blairy was attacking off the front quite hard. Hall brough back the first one with relative ease, just prior to the horse incident, then the next one took a small effort to bring back and had the effect of stringing out the bunch again. Ben Marshall was behind me and we again chewed the stem to get the wheels back. This one took about 30 seconds for me to get back on. I utilised a slight downhill slope to slingshot back onto the bunch. Happy days again, with a nice 29er wheel to follow.

This was where things got funny. I think the picture below of Hall's Garmin log sums it up. We were 2:51 out on course with the distance showing about 85 - 86km or so.
Just a slight detour out on track today.
We were all sitting up as we were rolling along, as we had just got lost. There is no easy way to put it. The course marking was just not there. We crossed the river, got onto a bitumen road, went up the road, turned around then went down the road. Went through a roundabout, felt as though we were too far north, so went back to the roundabout.

At this stage, we just stopped. Blairy called the race director. "John. It's Blairy. Where's the finish?" yadayadayada. At this stage, it was pretty much over. We neutralised the race for us, then came across the next group of riders who had also got lost. We finally found our way to the real finish and crossed the line at 3:08. That's 17 minutes after we originally figured we were lost. My Garmin still said 30km/hr even with the pissing around trying to find the course.

Unfortunately, someone had tampered with the course markings at such a critical point in the race for 7 of us, as well as those in the 2nd group. The result that was given was the position we were actually in at the 80km point. We all got the same time, which is no where near what would have been the eventual time if we had stayed on track.

It is an absolutely hollow feeling to have drilled yourself for 3 hours to not be able to contest a result. Fortunately for Andrew and I having missed stage one meant that the GC was a non-issue for us, however, with Hogarth and Hanson not having ideal days, there was a bit of a shake up with Bennett and Marhsall moving up some places, but their times would be compromised and truly reflective of what went down out there.

Anyway, it's been run, was not technically won, but we'll just never know what could have been for each of the 7 #lostboys. 

Highlights of the day though would include the following
  • 4:11 wake up
  • 30km/hr + average speed
  • one section of the course with amazing views -- we were all eating gels at that point\
  • Lewis going under the fence like a scalded wombat
  • Hall driving it on the front like a boss
  • Crosbie and Kyle Ward hitting some early ruts and pulling off some 180 degree aerial maneuvres
  • Kyle Ward's reach-around on the Safety mascot at the start
  • Talking crap on the way home trying to dissect what had just gone on
  • Last 5km intensity
  • Thai for dinner
  • Sleep in the afternoon
  • Chilling in the spa after the race
  • Sledging - you had to be there, but there were some awesome moments out there - as they say,  what happens in the race, stays in the race!

Andrew could pass as an Hispanic Gang Banger, but he is not Spanish, nor in a gang because they don't tolerate compression socks.

Up tomorrow the ITT in the morning followed by a night stage on the same course, but as a mass start event.

Oh yeah, it's raining in Alice Springs. Everytime I have been to Alice, it has been raining.

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