The first stage of Lasseters Easter in the Alice doubles as the opening rounds of the Australian XCM Series – so not only does the 75km race decide who takes the LEITA leader’s jersey into stage 2 tomorrow, it also denotes who leads the XCM Series ahead of the 2nd round – which is also National Championships – in Townsville.
But back to today’s race! With sign on out the front of the Lasseters Hotel, the race was then split in two, with Elite racers under a neutral roll out to the official start for their 75km race, and all other categories heading behind their own vehicle to the Scout Camp to start their 58km route – the same location as the first water point for the elite racers.
Early morning bottle drops.
As the lead car sped off and pulled over, the race exploded. Andy Blair, Ryan Standish, Brendan Johnston, Cam Ivory and other elite men jumped over the gutter and took off. In the Elite women’s race, Anna Beck was quick to take control with Imogen Smith on her wheel, as other riders from both categories were quickly strung out.
I found myself in a group of three with James Downing and Benji May. Downing is no stranger to racing in Alice Springs, and May has also enjoyed his racing here in the past. Maybe less so today.
The opening terrain is mostly firetrail and doubletrack, with pinch climbs and descents – and one or two particularly steep climbs before entering singletrack. May’s race came unstuck at this point as he stopped with a mechanical and didn’t rejoin.
I rode my own tempo, higher than maybe I should have, and grabbed a bottle at the 17km point, seeing Downing ahead who had grabbed a Camelbak for the next stretch of 20km to the next feed zone.
This next section is far more technical, with sand at first, then some twisty sections, before a bench cut trail mostly up hill. The singletrack is great – but demanding, and it was hard to keep Downing in sight.
The course then moved to the Hell Line which is actually a blast to ride, although I was suffering as I hit the feedzone there to collect a fresh bottle (I had a Camelbak MULE on my back the whole race). Something wasn’t working for me, as I was eating and drinking, getting bloated and hunger flatting. Maybe breakfast was too rushed before riding to the start, as I was sure I was eating enough. I grabbed a banana at the feedzone just in case.
My day got slower from here with not much to talk about! Out front it was mostly a leading group until Cam Ivory got away late in the stage, with Brendan Johnston chasing and Blair 3rd. Ryan Standish came in 4th and Tyla Windham rounded out the podium.
Anna Beck was on a flyer in the women’s, coming into Lasseters cross-eyed, off course and towards the wrong side of the finishline, needing to loop around to cross. She was quickly doused in ice and a lot of water. Karen Hill came across the line in 2nd, similarly pretty heat stressed, before Kim Willocks was 3rd, Imogen Smith 4th and Em Viotto in 5th.
Dean Hill won the Masters Men’s race overall and Tarneyl Sylvester won the Masters Women’s race overall. Full category results are online.
The finish was awash with smiling and frowning faces. Why? That’s bike racing. Some people had a good day, some had a day better than expected, and some didn’t have the day they were after. That’s the dice you roll lining up at a mountain bike race and while my thoughts in the final 1.5 hours, with hot spots on my feet, jelly legs and a cloudy head were of backing out of any upcoming races and racking it, now I’m interested in Stage 2 tomorrow.