Hansen scores podium in sprint

The 77km stage 4 of the Inkgerreke Commercial Mountain Bike Enduro in Alice Springs featured equal parts pain and pleasure with spills for some and come from behind wins for the more fortunate.

Subarau-MarathonMTB.com rider Naomi Hansen registered a bike-length win over yellow jersey rider Melissa Anset while Team Torq's Jack Haig had his hopes of being the first to beat overall men's leader, Andy Blair, dashed by a shoulder-crushing fall in the closing kilometres of what was a brutal day on course.


Haig's fall was the second in two days for the Torq crew. While Haig's bruised shoulder and broken handlebar didn't stop him from finishing today's stage, Robbie Hucker's crash yesterday resulted in two broken bones in his elbow, ending the event for him and likely costing him at least three weeks out of the saddle. His incident happened nearing the finish line of yesterday's stage 3 when he took a line through tall grass where three telegraph poles lay hidden. He managed to clear the first two but came down on the third, sending him and his hopes over the handlebars.

Haig and Blair worked together for most of the ride, holding the pace and working as a pair before falling back to allow first Nick Both and then Ben Hogarth to join the front-end fray. With everything to gain in terms of time, the latter two did most of the work while Blair and Haig, safely one-two overall, had nothing to lose by sitting back to enjoy the ride for the middle section of the course.

Then things got interesting.

"Blair attacked through a rocky section before the ridge," said Haig. "He took out a 30-metre gap or so. I had to work hard to get back onto his wheel."

The rolling surge dropped Both and Hogarth as Blair and Haig went toe-to-clipped-in-toe.

"As we climbed up the first hill onto the ridgeline, we kept attacking each other, testing to see how fatigued the other was. I attacked across the top, trying to really push the pace. By the next climb I was leading, but had to unclip and walk a section. Blair overtook and then on the decent, which was a hairy section, I got a big rock under my back wheel and crashed badly."

Despite a broken handlebar and aching shoulder, Haig remounted and limped over the final few kilometres, leaving Blair to an easy win.

"I could ride, but I decided to cruise and protect my shoulder. It's pretty ginger. I'm hoping it will be okay to ride tomorrow - I'll get a new handlebar and go for a ride later to see how it feels."

Haig, who was overtaken in the final push by Nick Both for second placing today, still managed third place and maintains second placing in the overall standings.

"If I ride tomorrow, it'll just be about trying to preserve second place overall," said Haig.

The same conservative approach may be on the cards for overall leader Blair in tomorrow's two stages, a 23km time trial and a 23km night race.

"If I think about it rationally, I just have to be cautious and ride sensibly. I'm unlikely to lose time if I have no problems. So that's the most important factor: avoid problems. Then and again, the time trial is a true test, and it'd be good to go out and make statement," Blair said. "But realistically I should just stick to riding down hills smoothly and efficiently and fast up them."


"The first part of the undulating double track was scary for me," said Hansen who admits to not being top of the technical game. "I lost Melissa in that first section. Then we jumped onto the cycle track to Simpsons Gap where I just time trialled, eventually catching up to a group of guys. We then worked as group, catching Melissa."

Anset had been riding out on her own, a fearsome headwind biting into her energy reserves.

"We rode together and chatted, actually," said Hansen. "Melissa has 15 or so minutes on me - so it's not like there was any point in us pushing each other, except to stay ahead of the other girls. So we sat together for rest of the stage on a bit of a 'ladies' agreement'. On the last climb, Melisa rode up quicker, but then pulled back, saying she appreciated the work I'd done on the road section with her."

Cue lots of squealing on the BMX track as Hansen and Anset rode in together, a final fun sprint giving Hansen the over-the-line spoils for stage 4.

"I'm happy with today's ride - I didn't lose any more time to Melissa, and I put a bit more of a gap on (third placed) Terri (Rhodes) before tomorrow's night stage and time trial, which she'll do well in.

"Still, there are three stages to go and look how many of the top guys are out because of crash. On a stage race you never give up until you cross that final finish line on the last day - you never know what can happen in between."

Brief Results

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Men stage 4
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Andrew Blair2:50:15
2Nick Both0:01:39
3Jack Haig0:03:25
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Women stage 4
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Naomi Hansen3:23:28
2Melissa Anset0:00:11
3Terri Rhodes0:12:16
Swipe to scroll horizontally
Men general classification after stage 4
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Andrew Blair6:25:43
2Jack Haig0:07:35
3Ben Hogarth0:17:28
Swipe to scroll horizontally
Women general classification after stage 4
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Melissa Anset7:45:40
2Naomi Hansen0:15:09
3Terri Rhodes0:31:22

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