Irvinebank – Irvinebank: 84km
Good news – no rain today! We had evacuated ourselves to a motel again last night, allowing for plenty of good food and some clothes washing in Atherton.
We had heard it would be 84km today, and when we arrived back in Irvinebank we heard it would be a 9am start, and a 3 lap course. So it would be on then. The sun was out on the start line, and even our support crew, Pete Figg, would have a slightly easier day, not having to be on the move between different depots.
From the gun, it was steady enough, with a variety of riders having a dig, even Subaru-MarathonMTB.com’s own Justin Morris. Being a shorter than usual stage the pace was on like donkey kong. By the end of the first lap, the main group had splintered and 2 riders had established a handy lead off the front. These 2 were ex road pros Hasselbacher and Hulsmanns. All 3 Subaru-MarathonMTB.com riders were still comfortable in the chasing bunch. By the end of the 2nd lap the bunch had been blown to pieces due to the strong surges over the difficult climbs in the lap. A selection was made by the last lap as the lead 2 were caught. Justin was included in this final 10 man group, with Mike and Graeme not far off the pace in the next group. On the final 2 climbs, the lead group was further splintered with a 3 up sprint finishing the days stage won by Dutch pro and team mate of Bart Brentjens, Jerone Boelen. With Justin rolling in around 10th with fellow Aussie Brad Davies and the breakaway companions Hulsmanns and Hasselbacher.
Strong man Brad Davies seems to have the Masters category sewn up if his form continues. Subaru MarathonMTB riders Graeme and Mike are still battling with two other Aussies for the M1 title. Graeme had a reasonable finish after being let go from the main group on lap 2. He was in a group of 5 which formed after the split and continued to work well together on the 3rd lap to consolidate track position. On the final climb, M1 nemesis, Mark Griffin got a small gap and carried it to the line. Another hard and fast day in cross winds. Even on the modified course, this race is proving be as advertised – hard.
All in all, still a very difficult stage for all riders. Crazily fast paced on the flat, harsh climbing and euros just chopping all concerned. An easier day in terms of logistics and transfers. Subaru-MarathonMTB.com riders can hold their heads high after putting in a superb combined effort. Tomorrow looks manageable, however, this is the Croc Trophy…where anything goes!