Intense. That’s the word that rode back in from a pitch-black, relentlessly tight singletrack course tonight, a tight four-way sprint finish and a smattering of on course carnage defining the penultimate night stage in the Ingkerreke Commercial Mountain Bike Enduro.
Andy Blair extended his overall lead after taking a slingshot ride on the final corner courtesy of rival team rider, Merida’s Ryan Standish. He crossed less than a bike length in front of stage favourite, Jason English. Aiden Lefmann snuck into third with Standish falling to fourth in the final metres, despite his bull run.
Knowing that English would threaten in the dark, teammates Blair and Lefmann worked in tandem for most of the race to hold him off, much to English’s chagrin.
“That’s racing I guess,” said English. “But you’re supposed to let faster riders through,” he said, tongue only half in cheek.
It was Blair who led most of the singletrack, keeping a solid tempo knowing that there weren’t many passing slots.
“Jase (English) did manage to get through with a few kays of singletrack to go,” said Blair.”He lit it up a bit there and tried to unload a few passengers but we stuck with him onto the fire roads.”
It was here in the open that a possible team tactical error unfolded.
“Ryan (Standish) went to the front with about 400 metres to go, trying to lead out English, but I got on his wheel and it was the perfect lead out. I wanted to be second wheel out of the corner, so I was in the perfect position.”
With the twenty second credit, Blair pushes out his overall lead once again, drawing away from English, who trades back into second place overall and Lefmann who slips to third being outside the time credits.
The result tightens Blair’s grip on the Enduro title. Even if he should finish outside the top three for the final stage, he will still win his first Ingkerreke Commercial Mountain Bike Enduro.
“I’ll sleep easier tonight knowing that all I need to do is stay with the lead bunch.”
Stage victory in the women’s went to Jess Douglas, a win not without its challenges, including crashes for both Douglas and Anna Beck, who was leading at the time of her downfall.
“I had some pressure from a (male) rider behind me, hit a rock and crashed pretty badly,” said Beck, who was shaken but safe at the finish, recovering to maintain fourth position and second overall.
Douglas’ mishap ended her helmet’s career, but didn’t stop the race leader from taking the stage win ahead of Anne Antrecht in second and Jo Wall in third.
“Early on in the single track it was quite congested,” said Douglas. “I got a rock in the side of grass and before I knew it I was over the bars. I picked up my bike and it worked, I was okay, A few minutes later Anna had her crash up ahead. I toned down my riding about 50 per cent after that. There was some aggro out there; the passing opportunities were few and far between. I just need a new helmet now.”
The race for the women’s title has cooled a little with tonight’s result making Jess short odds to win with a good nine minutes up her yellow sleeve.
Tomorrow’s final stage is a 40 kilometre ride on a totally new course.
PROVISIONAL RESULTS STAGE 6 (22km night race):
1. Andy Blair 00:57:38
2. Jason English 00:57:48
3.Aiden Lefmann 57:59
1. Jess Douglas 01:12:02
2. Anne Antrecht 01:13:24
3. Jo Wall 01:15:06
OVERALL PROVISIONAL RESULTS STAGE 1-6
1. Andy Blair 08:25:16
2. Aiden Lefmann 08:25:54
3. Jason English 08:27:14
1. Jess Douglas 10:15:23
2. Anna Beck 10:24:30
3. Jo Wall 10:41:18
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