Thirty cyclists left Purnie Bore at 06:00 this morning for the 23rd Simpson Desert Bike Challenge. The challenge for each cyclist is to ride, walk or run the 580kms, to Birdsville via the Rig Road and Birdsville Track over the next 4.5 days.
Today, sand hill upon sand hill, heat, wind and flies soon took a toll on the riders. By the end of the first, day only 13 riders had managed to complete the stage within the designated time. 2008 Simpson Desert Challenge winner, Lynton Stretton from North Eton Queensland, rode strongly all day putting in a 16-minute lead on New Zealand rider Andrew Jamieson. Third place was shared by Alan Keenleside and Al Descantes, both from NSW, who rode together for the day. The Slovakian Katarina Cervikova, one of two females in the event was successful in completing 100% of the course today.
Day two is traditionally the most challenging day of the event. In 2008, all but one rider succumbed to the desert on the second day, and by day four, all riders were eliminated from completing 100 percent - including the race winner Lynton Stretton.
Temperatures today were considered mild - only reaching the mid 30s (degrees Celsius) - and the winds were manageable. There is no doubt, however, that the Desert will claim more scalps on the second day. Although 17 riders were "swept" today, it is expected all will front the Starter at 06:00 in the morning with the aim of riding as much of the desert as physically able.