With a massive time gap to the guys in the top 3 I went into this stage looking to have some fun while staying upright. Being a small race of 26km, I was estimating an hour of high intensity which is much different to the type of training I do and my normal racing!
I led the boys for the first km before Andy Blair, Chris Jongerwood and Ben Mather stepped up the pace. I moved into 5th position on the first climb and sat comfortably behind James Downing through the first single track. As I saw the gap to the top 3 riders start to blow out I moved passed James and just tried to minimise time lost. The track was very similar to the first stage and the last 9km was the same last 9km from the first stage. The surface was covered once again with rocks of various sizes and for this race, I was more than happy to turn the pace down and unclip around corners that looked particularly sandy or loose. At the half way mark the boys were well up the road however, with around 10km from the finish I rode past Chris who was changing a tyre. Further ahead I could see Ben but riding cautiously didn't aid in an attempt to catch him! Chris came flying past in the last 2km of the course as he couldn't afford to let Andy beat him by too much and the speed he was traveling at was impressive. I was just trying to keep my heart rate on 180bpm and he rode past me like I was creeping along!
The 10km night race was never going to influence race positions. With big gaps between most of the elite riders, the closest gap was between Chris Jongerwood and Andy Blair with about 3 minutes.
Starting in the dark was a cool change. The race course was a wide fast course around the Alice Springs Golf Course. From the gun the pace was on, but not ridiculous. Chris and Andy rode off casually and no one was interested in staying with them. Instead a fairly large group formed with only a few keen riders swapping turns.
Coming across the line with the main group there was time for another good feed at the Juicy Rump before an early night.
Stage 4 was the final stage that started with a group ride to the Telegraph Station with all riders wearing their provided bunny rabbit ears.
The race started across the sandy Todd River before heading straight into single track for the next 20km. The single track is great. I was trying to have fun while at the same time trying to stay with the fast boys. I fell off the back at around 30km in the race as I couldn't resist the amazing feed zones that were setup. I also wanted to check the front of my bike after a little creek crossing caught me by surprise and really jarred the front end of the bike. The middle section of this course had a massive flat, sandy, section that seemed to drag on for what seemed like hours into a wicked headwind. The whole time I could see Ben Mather and Andy Blair less than a minute up the road but I wasn't going to push any harder to try and catch them. The final 20km of single track back to the finish was familiar as it took in part of the 2nd stage but I didn't seem to pedal it as fast this time due to the more intense start to this race. I was happy to roll across the line behind the boys with enough time in the bank to hold onto 3rd place on GC.
A massive thanks to the Alice Springs Mountain Bike Club, especially JP and Nick for putting on such a great event. Next year I am really keen to come back and bring the family to check out what Alice Springs has to offer. The club was so welcoming and the opportunity to try and corrupt their juniors was great!