I'm sitting on the floor in the Sydney airport about to begin the super long journey back to Idaho. The Ingkerreke Commercial Red Centre Enduro is in the record books and hopefully the five days of hard racing is stored in my legs for further use in the season.
The final stage was a 45km mass start and might have been my favorite stage of all. It's hard to decide because every single day was unique riding with a ton of singletrack through wonderful desert terrain. The men's field had changed yellow jersey wearers nearly every day, so the final rankings came down to the last day.
The women's race was also fairly close with just about 10 minutes separating first through third places in the overall. I was sitting in second at the start of the last stage with just a one second margin over third. Given the crazy terrain and tire-eating rocks, it was still anyone's race.
I felt strong on the last day, but not fast. I could tell in the first 30 minutes that I was not going to set the course on fire that day. I still rode hard and kept it in the back of my mind that a flat tire would be all it would take to change the rankings.
The course was really technical on the final day with some new sections of singletrack that were hard to follow. There were also some rocky, Moab-type sections with small drops and some exciting terrain. The race director, John Jacoby, dealt up a classic hike-a-bike section for a few kilometers at the very end of the stage.
Since I know John so well, I knew he was loving giving the racers a super hard finish just to top off a grueling week. I loved the last section where there was virtually no trail and you were running and riding through the desert scrub trying to find a clean line. It definitely reminded me of my adventure racing days and I was loving it.
It was one of the hottest days of the week and drank all my water and was still wanting more. We finished the race right near the Todd River and the location of the original spring that Alice Springs is named after. Rapid Ascent had cold watermelon and cheers waiting for everyone at the finish line.
Gracie (Elvin), who is half my age, won the stage and moved up into second overall. Jodie (Willett) finished off a super solid week and held onto her first place finish. She will be heading to Europe shortly for the remaining World Cup cross country races. I finished third and was really happy with my performance.
I would have liked to have been able to drum up a bit more top-end speed for some of the shorter stages, but I know it's early season and this race is preparation for bigger goals later in the year. I was super impressed with the race organization and the level of competition in Australia.
It was also really fun to see the Aussie spirit alive and well. People here just seem unbelievably happy to be riding their bikes and pushing themselves. They have a way of being super competitive, but with a smile on their face and a kind word as they pass you.
Being in the Red Centre of Australia was also a magical experience. Much like the Arizona and Utah deserts, the middle of Australia is a stark, but beautiful landscape.
Thanks to Rapid Ascent and Tourism NT for the amazing trip. I'll be back to Australia again soon.
Next up for me is a short, 10-day break at home. After that, I continue the stage race training days at the Transylvania Epic in Pennsylvania.