Riding one of the best-ever cross country courses

Day 1 brings two stages for Rusch

Stage one and two are in the books, and I feel really good about my performance today. The first stage was about 45km of technical, rocky, sandy singletrack. It was a blast, and I really enjoyed the stage.

The riding was one of the best cross country courses I've ever done. The rains last month made the grass grow really tall, so there were tons of hidden ruts and large rocks jumping out at the last second. It was for sure super-focused riding for nearly the whole three hours. The scenery was beautiful, and I even had a kangaroo jump out in front of me!

I'm satisfied with my placing and now know what type of riders I'm up against. The three women that were in front of me today are some of the best cross country racers in the country, including the marathon national champ and World Cup racer, and the Under 23 cross country Australian national champ.

The women's field is super strong, but I know there are still many more hours of racing, and I hope to get some time back in the longer stage.

There were multiple athletes carrying and walking their bikes due to flats, broken frames and mechanicals. There were also a couple of broken people who suffered crashes. The desert out here eats bicycles and people, so I feel really grateful to have made it through the day with no crashes, no mechanicals and in a decent overall position. I was about eight minutes back from the leader, so it's still anyone's race.

I felt relatively good for most of the stage and was super happy to be racing. I had a fun day, but definitely had to throttle it back a bit due to the heat and the early season racing. I ran out of water and the last hour I was making sure not to go too far into the tank and save a bit for the rest of the week.

I spent the afternoon in my room, pounding fluids, drinking Hammer Recoverite and getting the nutrition back in. The Skins compression tights went on, and I joined many of the racers for a leg soak in the cold pool at the hotel.

I also spent a fair bit of time using tweezers to pick multiple thorns out of my tires and inspecting them for cuts and wear. The Specialized Armadillo elites had multiple sidewall scuffs and thorns, but they've survived so far.

Stage two was in the afternoon. It was a 300-meter time trial hill climb, and it hurt! It was a traditional countdown and just over a minute of pain.

It was sort of fun because spectators were lining the road and cheering the whole time. I finished up third in the hill climb and got myself a five second bonus for that. I'll take whatever I can get!

According to race director, John Jacoby, tomorrow's stage is some of the best riding this area has to offer. Classic local trails such as Roo Trail, The Crapper Trail, The Sink Trail, are apparently named for the things you find along the way.

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