I'm sitting in my hotel room in the middle of the Australia. Literally the middle of nowhere, Alice Springs. I'm as far away from home as I can get. They say it's the Death Valley of Australia, but it doesn't feel that hot to me yet.
I'm sorting my bike, nutrition and gear for tomorrow's first stage of the Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro/Red Centre. It's a five-day stage race that is run by my adventure racing teammate, John Jacoby. John and I raced side by side for nearly eight years traveling around the globe through Kyrgysztan, Vietnam, the Alps, covering what seems like a million miles together. He's like a brother to me, so when he invited me to come experience his race, I could not pass up the opportunity.
Thanks to Tourism (Northern Territory) NT for taking care of my trip logistics and getting me over to this side of the world! I've been to Australia multiple times before and even spent a semester here as an exchange student in college, but I've only visited the coasts, never the middle of the country.
It reminds me of Utah and Arizona here. The riding is super rocky, thorny, with sandy, red dirt everywhere. The big topic of conversation for this race is the flat tires.
The race website and other competitors all drilled it into me that this area rips tire sidewalls to pieces and that the thorns are relentless. I changed my usual tire selection from the Specialized S-works tires and instead am using the Armadillo Elite "thorn proof" versions. I'm also carrying tubes with sealant in them in case I do have to put a tube in my tire.
In one short training ride today, I did come back and pull about four thorns out of my tires. They had not punctured through, but they were there just waiting to poke through!
This race is seven stages spread over five days. The stages are all varied and range from a 45-second hill climb to a 100km all-day affair. The first day's stages are a 40km mass start cross country race and a 40-second hill climb in the town.
The longer morning stage is rumored to have a section of the most difficult singletrack that we will see all week. It's called the Hell Line trail, so I'm sure it'll be rough.
This area has had record rainfall in the last month, so the trails are exceptionally eroded and the grasses and plants are all overgrown and hiding the rocks and holes in the trail. John is warning all the racers to expect to take longer and be on and off the bike more than in the past.
Since I've never raced here, I have no idea what to expect. What I do know from John is that he loves to challenge people and this race will be far from easy. Most of the stages are quite short for me, so this will be a great training week of lining up each day and pinning it from the gun. The field is stacked with the best racers in the country, so I expect a really tough bit of racing.
I will do my best to keep you all up to speed as the week progresses. The nice thing about this stage race is I will be returning to my hotel room each day for a hot shower, clean bed and a little pool recovery time.
Stay tuned and thanks for following! G'day!