Thursday, May 16, 2013

Stage 4 with Steve

With Quantum Racing's Steve Billington to help, we have brought this remote marathon stage alive. 

ICME Stage 4, 88km of dusty 4wd tracks and as flat as a pancake. The stage was custom made for the roadies amongst the pack.
It was an early start, the bus leaving the hotel at 5am for the long drive out to the Santa Teresa. The local community school was the location for the 7:30am start. The local indigenous kids had gathered to wave off the riders and watch the spectacle of lycra clad cyclists warming up, some of them showing off their trials skills. Everyone was smiles, there might be some inspiring cyclists in the little community of Santa Teresa.
As expected the pace was again so fast we could have all made sizeable donations to the lactic acid bank.  The front group of about 30 broke free and I was struggling to stay in touch and was dropped after about 15km.  The Rowena Fry road train came through and I got on board, Ben was in the front pulling us at around 35-40km/hr, albeit to say no one was talking. It was through the low hills at this point, with a bit of bull dust, then onto the distinctly flat, fast sections.
photo: Rapid Ascent
We caught a remnant of about 10 from the front pack after the first water point at 40km and there was a brief respite.  My average speed to this point was 30.3kph.  The top 3 vets were in this pack so it was game on. It is some amazing sandstone country, if you take the chance to look either side of the trail, rocky ridges and pinnacles that ooze their desert country magic.
Suddenly a piece of mulga scrub jumped up and jammed itself solid in my drive chain.  Dammit, it took 30secs to clear it and the pack had gapped me by about 70m.  I went into over drive slowly dragging them back, over a rise and the course turned onto the road and although I was only about 40m behind, the pack took off, the train had left the station and I wasn’t on it.
At this point it can be very easy to go to a bad place mentally, but in stage races you need to keep going as anything can happen. Since the rest of the field was so far behind, I had to solo it for the next 40km and didn’t that hurt. While the tracks were fast and flat, there were a few bits of sand, not deep but enough to suck you in.
photo: Rapid Ascent
At the 85km I was expecting the end, but I was still on a track chasing tyre treads.  A group finally caught me and we ended up going halfway back into town, we were lost.  Luckily someone knew where we were supposed to go and we made our way back to finish having ridden an extra 4-5km.  This had happened to the first 30 riders who finished in 3 groups, so they gave everyone in the group the same time after a lot of protests.  I would have finished 3rd in vets but for the detour, but have only dropped one place in the GC to 3rd in Vets so a good outcome to a bad day. A bit of an outback adventure stage.
Tomorrow is a 23km time trial in the morning and a night race on the same course that night, look OUT!
How are the locals handling the inclement weather?

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