Arriving in Alice Springs on Saturday with a few juniors from Port Macquarie it was time to check out some of the 1st stage course. After 2.5hrs we had only seen half of the track as we ran out of light. I was thinking it was going to be a long day for some people out there.
As the race started Monday morning I wasn't keen for a hard race. I was hoping that the boys would be looking after their legs for the week but Aiden Leiftman took off like it was a 30second race. I was just thankful there was a massive chase group that I could hide in until my lungs caught up. There were a few little attacks off the front that were wound back however, Aiden managed to get away at about the 5km mark. At around 7km in I was trying to hold onto Andy Blair's wheel and we had a fair gap back to 4th place. At about 12km I had to stop and grab my drink bottle that had tried to escape and later crashed trying to catch Andy as I was riding like an idiot taking far too many risks!
I finally caught up to Andy and Aiden around 18km into the race. I finally started to feel ok when I was riding with them and at times it felt like I was riding with mates out in the bush having a great time, I almost forgot I was racing as I was loving the technical trails. My legs were feeling the effects of chasing hard however.
5km from the end of the race it turned into an tense road finish, there were attacks going and I was doing everything I could just to hold on. I was keen to win but I was more keen to make sure I didn't loose too much time on the boys. With 1km to go I got forced out the front. I did the pace setting expecting a big final attack to go leaving me to ride over the line by myself. The attack seemed to take too long to happen so I gave it a go and managed to get to the entrance to the casino first. It was almost impossible for the other riders to get past me the way the final corners were set up. This gave me a very close stage win with Andy and Aiden equal 1 second behind!
The last 20km of the course was awesome. I just hope there is more like this later on in the week!