Red Centre Enduro – Alice Springs

Last week several MWCC members entered the Red Centre Enduro around Alice springs. Below is the unedited race diary of Mark Hardy.

Red Centre Enduro Stage 1

The mission was a 50km romp around the hills to the north and east of town. The course was largely singletrack with connecting fire road. I recall from last year that this was a physically very demanding stage so I was prepared to take it easy to conserve the legs for later in the week.

Race started at the historic old telegraph station at 9am and I positioned myself well back in the start group to ensure I took off at a civilised pace. Roelof, Wazza, Barge and Gazza all pushed their way up towards pole position. By the end of the 1st 2km of bitumen the leaders already had a massive gap on us slower rider. The first 5km were up the old Stuart Hwy which is a mixture of very broken up bitumen, 2WD dirt and rougher stuff. The pace was comfortable along the rolling hills and I was able to sit in a small group. About here I passed Barge who looked like he was having trouble warming up. He jumped into our group. Then we reached a river crossing (with real water in it). Then we moved into more undulating terrain which suited the 29er really well and I started passing quite a few people. About 13km in we dropped into the first section of genuine singletrack. It was rocky and eroded and was basically a shute with rocks in the bottom. I found it very tough and semi-crashed 2 or 3 times (without coming off, but got diagonally jammed in the shute – ugly). In between sections of singletrack there was usually fireroad climbs – some very steep and very eroded due to the very wet summer they had here. Several required walking. The single track sections improved in quality after that and the trails were very enjoyable to ride.

The scenery was beautiful as much of the singletrack traversed ridglines offering views of the Mc Donnell ranges and down towards the town. Barge had caught up to me by this stage (about an hour into the race) and we rode at a pretty easy pace stuck behind slower riders for a very long time. But it was good recovery. Barge then unexpectedly attacked the slower riders and burst away. I was stuck behind them for another 15min or so and by that time he was well out of sight. I spotted him leaving the water station at the 30km mark just as I was coming in.

A very technical long climb followed the water station followed by some very fast slightly descending fire trail. Nick Both caught me around here after flatting earlier on and I jumped on his wheel for a very high speed tow till the next single track section where he vanished. Shortly after I spotted a KOM jersey ahead riding very slowly. I thought it was Barge having issues but then realised the rider was far too slim and indeed it was Wazza having a good ‘ol chunda off the side of the bike. I gave him my water bottle as he was having trouble with the Endura he was drinking.

About another 10km of single trails and fast fireroads then we came out in the NE suburbs of Alice for a flat blast for the last 6km. I was feeling very dehydrated by now having given up my water bottle so I decided to try and get to the finish as fast as I could. My legs still felt pretty fresh. I put the hands down on the fork crowns and sat on 40km/h all the way to the finish. Spotted another KOM jersey about 800m before the end and flew around Gazza before he had a chance to respond. At the finish, Roelof and Barge were both done and looking fresh. Roelof did 2:34 and is probably 2nd in Vets. Darvo was about a minute behind Roelof. Barge 2:42, I was 2:43 and Gazza at 2:44. Wazza came in 10 minutes later looking very sick and we took him right over to the Doc. Hopefully he will come good tomorrow.

I was very happy with today’s time as it’s 15min better than last year but this stage was day 2 last year and that would be a big part of the improvement.

A very enjoyable days riding was had by all (except Ging of course).

Wazza is in Tongs position but there is a long way to go.

An easier stage tomorrow with 34km through single track on the west side of town. Passing is very hard for most of this stage so getting into a good position early will be important.

Until tomorrow.

Red Centre Enduro Stage 2

The banter and sledging from stage 1 had been running hot since yesterday and we all lined up for Stage 2 with a point to prove. Could Roelof stay in front of Darvo? Has Wazza recovered? Was Barge’s poor start yesterday an aberration?

We left the Chifley Hotel at 9am for a 5km neutral ride under police escort. Once on the outskirts of town the coppers pulled off and it was on. First, a 4km run north alongside the railway line on 4WD track. It was dusty and sandy. We all started together but in the sand the 29ers showed their attributes and myself and Roelof immediately put a big gap into the others on 26ers. Those big wheels just float over the sand. So much that within a few minutes I was in touch with the pointy end of the field – only time that will happen this week for sure. The first decent hill put me back in my place and I started losing places. We crossed the railway line and got into some very rough and new singletrack. I smashed my front wheel into rocks on a steep rocky descent and lost some air but it stayed up.

My riding skills today seemed to desert me and I was a complete clutz in the corners. Wazza was the first to catch me and I let him by. But it was clear he wasn’t his usual self because he stayed in sight for quite a long time after passing me. Gazza caught me about 20 min later and he vanished pretty quickly and he was riding very well through the technical corners. Clearly I was having a bad day.

Not long after I spied Barge coming up behind me. I could feel the Tongs heading in my direction too so I tried to dig out some more speed. We got into straighter flatter terrain and I was able to gap Barge for a while. After about 30 min more of technical the trails opened up in 4WD track. I tried to put on the gas but Barge was soon on my tail again. The 2nd placed woman (Jess Douglas) went past me and we formed a two person peleton and left Barge behind again.

After the water stop at 20km Barge finally caught me properly and started moaning about his back, his chest, his legs and his pansy cornering skills. So much so, I actually started to feel pretty good about my own situation and I pulled away from him with Jessica again. Jess and I soon caught Anna Beck who is leading the womens category and a fascinating duel broke out with Anna trying to put on some speed and Jess trying to get past. Eventually Anna cracked and lost traction on a technical climb allowing Jess and I to squeeze by. Anna and Barge disappeared behind us and we were getting close to the end. We crossed the railway line again, blasted along some 4WD track then had to climb a ridge with an unridable climb. Down the otherside and into the Alice Springs velodrome for a finishing lap. Just as I was crossing the line Barge was coming into the velodrome to finish 25 seconds behind me.

Overall a tough stage and I think it took a lot out of me. We’ll see tomorrow when we do the toughest stage, 77km – the 1st 25km has over 600m of climbing. It’ll be about 4hrs for us chaps I think.

This evening we have a hill climb time trial. It’s only about 300m long and takes about 60 seconds. Won’t change results at all.

Results today had
Darvo 1:33:53
Roelof 1:34:05
Wazza 1:37:36
Gazza 1:37:55
me 1:40ish
Barge 1:40 and a half

Rough standings after stage 2 are:
Darvo about 1 min down
Gazza about 15 min down
Barge about 17min down
I’m about 18 min down
Wazza about 28 min down

Red Centre Enduro Stage 3

Stage 3 was a 330m hill climb time trial, on sealed road. Vertical ascent 34m.

It was steep, short and hurt like hell. On top of that it we were all slow. But for the record, Roelof was the quickest of all of us in 61 seconds. Otherwise it was a meaningless minute of pain.

The real deal is tomorrow’s stage 4 – 77km.

Red Centre Enduro Stage 4
There comes a time when we ask ourselves, “why do we do this?”. For me, today was one of those days. More on that later.

I had strong hopes today of clawing back my time on Barge and Gazza. Since my surgery I am generally stronger on the flats and far below my previous climbing ability. And this was to be a mostly flat stage. Mostly; because the first 23km had 450m of climbing. My strategy was to take it easy through the hilly stuff and save the legs for the flats.

The start was at the local scout hall and we all lined up for the 9am start, all except Wazza. Asked Barge, “where’s Wazza” and the reply was a shoulder shrug – “in bed maybe”. So the tongers was reduced to 4.

The start was a fairly stiff climb which spread the field out and about 5km of fairly easy undulating riding. Then the 4WD trails got progressively worse. The climbs got steeper, looser and rockier. Many were unridable. And worse still, the descents were similarly rocky and downright dangerous meaning no reward for the climbing effort. Barge and Gazza were out of sight. Roelof of course was long gone, but that was the plan anyway. Once again the 29er was sensational through the sandy sections. The climbs were brutal though and many had to be walked. This section finished with a nice long gradual descent that was surprisingly smooth and I could finally open up the speed. After 1:26 and 23.5km covered I pulled into the 1st water station.

Refueled and the next sector started with a 16km meandering sealed bike path. Now to chase down those other two buggers (Gazza and Barge). I got into my preferred time trial position which is hands on the fork crowns and face almost kissing the Garmin. I was pretty soon up to about 36km/h and feeling pretty good This hand position does not give a lot of bike control and it was fun through the corners just leaning the bike over with a slight nudge on the inside bar. Some of the corners are quite tight too so it was a lot of fun. I passed a lot of people on this path and I expected to get people collecting on my wheel but the ones that did only did for a short period. The constant cornering would have made it hard to wheel suck confidently. I passed Anna Beck in her womens yellow leaders jersey. Then shortly after went passed Jo Wall (current 24hr Nat champion) who was desperately trying to stay ahead of Anna. She jumped onto my wheel for a while. But I could see behind that Anna had got into a big group that was not too far behind.

The bike path ended with one of those awkward barrier thingies so 2 riders caught up with me while I was walking through. Averaged 32km/h on the bike path. We then set off on a long flat sealed road that headed south into the headwind. So I was in a group of three, rolling along at about 30 to 32 km/h. The other two wouldn’t go around to the front for a long time. Finally one guy did but his speed was about 27 to 29 and with a large group about 500m behind there seemed little point sitting in and letting them catch up. So I stayed on the front 90% of the time and we picked up a few more stragglers along the way. Pretty soon reached the 2nd water stop and sector 2 was 30km and dusted in 57 min. But still no sign of Barge and Gazza. I was getting worried – had they got into a super group and were miles ahead of me? Was all my smashing on the flats in vain?

So sector 3 got us back onto dirt roads and I quickly lost my little peleton as the 29er just rocks on corrugated roads. The terrain was flat and varying from sandy, to rocky to corrugated – with that damn headwind. Mostly sat on 26 to 28km/h and I had the world to myself. Then, like a mirage in the desert I saw in the distance a KOM jersey, rocking along. Eureka! The arm stance looked like Gazza but the rolling of the shoulders looked like Barge. He was still about 500m or so ahead so I had plenty of time to speculate. Then when I was about 200m in arrears the track did a hard right hand turn and Gazza gave me a little wave. I caught him pretty quickly and after a brief chat continued on to catch up with 2 other guys further ahead. I decided to sit in with them for a few minutes because there was a big climb coming.

The terrain got rougher with lots of washouts. One washout was bigger than I thought and I rode through it seated and snapped my seatpost. Bugger! My first thought was to pull out and to ride back to town as there was 12km of very tough riding remaining in the race. After faffing around with it for a couple of minutes, Gazza rode past, and in a moment of madness, decided I would continue. I pushed the seatpost down as far as it would go and stuffed the seat in my pocket.

I kept Gazza in sight for a while as I found a rhythm rolling along in a big gear then coasting for a break. Then the track turned up a steep climb onto a very loose and rocky ridge. This was unrideable without a seat as it was just too loose. So lots of walking ensued. The ridge-line comprised about a dozen very rocky climbs and descents. Several people passed me. The descents were downright scary. Finally got off that darned ridge and and it was a flat 5km to the finish. Chucked the bike into the biggest gear and stomped it home. The race finished with a lap of the local BMX track which was about the only thing that was fun to do without a seat.

I made it, but I was absolutely stuffed. 3:38. Lost about 6 min to Gazza and 10min to Barge. If it weren’t for Wazza’s no show the Tongs would have been well and truly mine. Wazza and Dunc made mumblings about having done a deal but we all know that the Tongs is well above that kind of corruption and scandal.

I have not seen results from today but Roelof had a blinder at 3:10 and put about 15 minutes into Darvo. Darvo had a bad day and came in 3:25. Barge was 2 min behind Darvo and Gazza 5 min further back. See the site for official times as I’m guessing. Yours truly rounded out the Tonging fraternity while Wazza was sipping martinis by the pool.

So why do we do it? Well, a few hours ago I was thinking f@#*^ knows. But now, with a spring back in my step, I have a new seat post from the local bike shop and I’ll be lining up for the 23km time trial tomorrow. I guess because it’s fun and we’re all in it together despite the obstacles that get in our way.

Map and other ride data here:

Tonight we have a big BBQ at Darvos house. Now if I can get enough beers into those other buggers I’m in with a chance.

Red Centre Enduro Stage 5
Late report today as I really had to have a nanny nap this afternoon to prepare for the night stage.

This morning we all struggled to emerge form bed, some better than others. Darvo really pulled out all stops yesterday to stay in GC contention and paid the price and was too ill to continue this morning. Mind you, he was still up and about so we suspect it was mainly in his head. πŸ™‚

I paid the price of my seat-less final 12km yesterday and was very sore and did not feel like racing at all. Still, I dragged my ass down to the TT to arrive barely a few minutes before my scheduled 10:13 rollout time. My arms and calves just had nothing left.

The time trial course today started at the Alice Golf Club and was a 21km mostly tight single track loop. Riders set off at 30 second intervals from slowest to fastest. Out of the tongers, Wazza was 1st off and he was finishing just as I started. His time was around 1:08 and he was the 1st to complete the course. I rolled out at 1013 choosing a leisurely pace. Within a few minutes Anna Beck who started 30 seconds behind me was passing me. But her early exuberance soon waned and I was able to sit behind her for the next 30 minutes or so. The first half of the course was mostly flat and meandering singletrack. It was very fast riding (35km/h a lot of the time) and with the narrow track and very long grass it was hard to see where to go. But following Anna made it easier and we passed a couple of riders through this section.

Then the track switched to a very new and rocky track that was much harder to ride. This was the return leg back to Alice and for me at least was very hard work in my current state. Pretty soon many riders passed me, I actually lost count it was that many. Finally though the agony ended with a very enjoyable and long descent back down to the golf club and the finish. My finish time was around 1:09 for the 21km. Gazza and Barge were about 5 minutes faster. Roelof was very close to breaking the hour but still not fast enough to take any time into Jameson who is winning Vets.

We all then headed into town for a well deserved brunch at the cafe then home for an afternoon nap.

Tonight is a night race over the same course. A report on that later.

Red Centre Enduro Stage 6
ursday night and stage 6 was a night race on the same course as the time trial we did this morning. This was a little scary for some of us as this course was very technical in places with lots of sharp, pointy and hard looking rocks.

After our afternoon naps we fed ourselves, got our lights set up on our bikes and headed down to the start at the Golf Course. As seems to be the tradition for this stage the organiser had us in the starting chute with ACDC Thunderstruck pumping in the background.

I positioned myself well back in the line up tonight as I was done racing and really just intended to roll around. Wazza had his race-face back on and looked edgy up the front. Gazza, Barge and Roelof all also worked their way close to pole position. Under blaze of HID headlamps we quickly rolled around the golf course at a rapid pace. The start was about 2km of flat 4WD tracks which spread field out surprisingly quickly. The dust was immense and choking and the only way to go was to follow the red light in front of you and hope you roughly remembered what we did this morning.
Pretty soon we were onto singletrack and a stiff climb and the dust abated and the field stretched out further. Due to my complete lack of climbing ability I got quite a queue lined up behind me which meant I had the next switchback descent all to myself and pretty soon I was riding largely on my own.

The track then turned right onto that flat meandering fast section I mentioned from this morning. I had a local rider behind me and he went around and we flew along here at a crazy speed. Crazy because it nearly impossible to see where the track was through the grass but I just followed his wheel. Saw a few crashes through this section as people caught rocks hidden in the grass. Pretty soon we caught up with a huge group that was trundling along pretty slowly. There must have been a bit of agro in this group as a few people crashed on a fairly open section probably in a passing manoeuvre. When I got there Anna Beck was on the ground crying and in a bad way and another guy well off to the side with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. I stayed for a while till it was apparent that Anna was just shocked and winded and she was able to get onto her bike. I set off more slowly this time as the track started to become windier and rockier.

At night the track seems to take on a very different feel. You only see the rock in front of your and often lose perspective of whether you are climbing descending. The techcnical scary stuff came and went without incident and I was mostly riding by myself and free of the stress of overtaking. I got to the top of the final climb and there was a bunch of locals yelling and screaming, ringing cowbells in the darkness. It was great and set us up nicely for the final descent. It was a fast one and I nearly came off a couple of times. Bt pretty soon I was back safely at the Clubhouse. All the boys were already there of course having been up in the pointy end. My time was only 4 min slower than the morning TT which was a real surprise given the slow traffic, the waiting and the general leisurely pace I rode. Wazza and Roelof were both blisteringly fast as expected.

The night stage was fun. It was great looking out from the ridge tops and seeing the long lines of lights twisting through the trails. And if you don’t take the racing seriously, it was nice just hearing the crickets and seeing big black spiders, mice and other little critters scurrying across the track as we rode along.

Darvo’s friend Rachel was the last of us to roll in at around 1:50 as the orange moon was rising over the desert. With the evening chill setting in no one hung around and we all headed home for a late tucker to prepare for the final Stage 7 tomorrow.

Not sure about placings now. I don’t think the time gaps changed significantly. I’ve dropped to 8th or 9th in Vets while Roelof still has about a 5min gap to 1st place.

Goodnight, final report tomorrow.

Red Centre Enduro Stage 7

Less than 12 hours ago we were finishing Stage 6 and now we were on the starting line all raring to go for Stage 7. The task ahead was 40km of trails mainly east and north of the town. Kind of a greatest hits collection of trails from previous stages and some new stuff as well. It was almost entirely singletrack.

All the boys turned up for the start with the exception of Darvo who was in his 4WD to head off to various vantage points. We kicked off with a lap of the town under police escort – this time at full race pace, then peeled off across a stormwater ditch to take a flat 4WD trail that eventually linked up with the end of last night’s stage. The final descent from last night became a climb. It was a long gradual one so the speed was good. But once over the top the track got very technical. All the boys got away from me, except Barge who I could see frequently about a minute ahead. Once the real technical rocky stuff ended we had more flowing fast trails and it was mighty good fun. At 24km we came to the water point then was shunted up a very long climb. Darvo was halfway up giving us encouragement. He jogged beside me telling me that Barge was less than a minute up the road and I should gun it and catch him. I didn’t. My competitive urge was broken with my seatpost two days prior and now I was riding for the ride.

Beside I was feeling pretty good that I had got through the whole event without crashing. That was a victory for me.

Once a the top of the climb we got into some very twisty trails. Too twisty really and it was very hard to carry any speed through the corners. Made it hard work (Ron knows what I am talking about). Also went through a VERY technical section with big long rock ramps and drops that were very similar for Sydney north shore – but quartz instead of sandstone. Trails varied between flowing to tricky till we popped out in a suburban street briefly. I asked the Marshall there, “how long to go?” “8 to 10 kays” was the response. I was shattered. I was knackered and had been riding for about 2hr 20 by now. Oh well, at least it’s flat and straight, so I put my head down and put on a bit of speed. About 2 minutes later I see a sign “1km to go”. WTF?! You ripper. So I put on some more speed. The terrain was basically sandy hard packed bike trail and fast. I came around a right hand corner just as the trail dropped sharply down into a small creek bed. It didn’t look a problem so I kept the speed up. But it was quite off-camber and I completely lost my front wheel. I went down SO HARD on my right hand side and slid on my elbows, knees and hip. Knocked the stuffing out of me and my right hip was bashed very hard. I took quite a while to get back on the bike and rode very slowly to the finish which was literally only 300m further. I can’t believe I crashed this close to the finish!

Once across the line I collapsed and the medicos cleaned me up and packed me with ice on the hip and shoulder. I stayed there for 30 minutes. I could see all the boys had finished. Martine (Gazza’s GF) crossed the line and had a little chat. Then once I regained my composure I wandered over. Gazza had a great race and beat Barge by several minutes. He needed 6min to overtake Barge on GC but don’t know how close he got. Roelof won the stage in Vets finally beating Jameson by attacking him with 2km to go. Barge had a bad one crashing early on and dislocating his finger. He looked pretty cut up on the finish line. Wazza apparently had a good ride and I heard some odd story he was retelling about stopping and waiting in the bushes for Anna. Maybe I missed something? Wazza can clarify next week.

Gorgeous day here in Alice. All the boys plus Martine and an irish lass have decided to walk up this huge mountain at the back of Darvos place. I’ve decided to sit here and drink beer with Rachel (Darvo’s friend from Brisbane). I think I made the right choice. I’ll do the mountain another day because it does look spectacular. There is a photo of the mountain below and I think you’ll agree – impressive, but hard work at this particular point in time.

So tonight we have the event party. Roelof gets a stage victory award – yay! We all get to drink more beer. Yay again. The final remaining unanswered question will be confirmed – who won out of Barge and Gazza? And tomorrow head back to Sydney stronger fitter and tougher riders than you all could possibly imagine. :). (I didn’t cry when I crashed). But we’ll be hard to beat in the Husky because it’ll be a piece of cake compared to this.

See youse all on the trails next week.

1 Comment

  1. Gazza

    Rudy(Roelof) 2nd
    Me(Gazza) 4th
    Duncan, 6th
    Mark, 7th
    Wazza(who cares,he’s the Bbq boy!)

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