By Su Spencer
There have been tough years in the past, but in 2008 the Simpson Desert finally won. On the fourth day of the race, held mostly in South Australia, temperatures in the low 40s (degrees Celsius) and a headwind of up to 90kph took out the only two riders still eligible for the treasured 100% completion medallion. Not a single rider was able to complete the full distance by maintaining the required 12kph average speed. In the 22 year-history of the race this is the first time that the Desert has managed a clean sweep.
Riders receive a time penalty for uncompleted distance, rather than being eliminated. So there was still a race winner - Lynton Stretton of Queensland, who was also the oldest rider to reach Birdsville. The very determined Warren Quinn, urged on in spirit by a number of previous riders from Parkes NSW, came up to second overall, nudging out Heinz von Holzen from Bali. Slovakian rider Roman Petr hung on for fourth. Stretton won the 50-59 year-old category, Quinn the 40-49 year-old category and William Bird (SA) took the 30-39 year-old category.
Given the tough conditions this year, Saturday morning's traditional finish at the historic Birdsville Hotel was never more welcome for a group of exhausted riders.
The Simpson Desert Challenge consists of nine timed stages over five days and covers around 580 km.