Blue skies, groomed singletrack, and mountains welcomed 400 riders for today’s first stage of Bike Buller. The 50km stage was made up of 4 major descents followed by equally steep climbs. To be expected, the pace was hard and fast from the get-go with small groups forming up the first major climb. There was a good mix of single track and fireroad with both requiring full attention if you were to last the day. I was expecting today’s stage to be the hardest of the three given the distance and the amount of climbing involved and set a pre-race target of a top ten finish.
A pre-race target was all it was as I rolled home 40 odd places behind. A flat followed by a theatrical crash 10km later dampened the days efforts. Two successive bog holes at the bottom of Stonefly got the better of me as bike and body were strewn across the valley. The rear wheel ended up 10m from the rest of the bike, and the front wheel now resembles a tasty Mexican meal. Luckily for me the mud pit softened the landing, as anything else would have broken bones. Some forceful encouragement to straighten the crispy corn shell and I was back on the bike, albeit riding to take in the scenery rather than a place.
General consensus of riders was that the stage was tough, but fun. Stonefly was the highlight for most. For me, it is the vision of the bike suspended a few meters ahead as I sailed through the air.
Tomorrow is a five hour lap based Super D, where Josh Carlson is expected to reduce the 14 minute gap to race leader Adrian Jackson. Robbie Hucker and Murray Spink had strong days and are well positioned with second and third respectively. AJ holds a 10 minute lead over Hucker and with the form he is carrying at the moment its hard to not hold him as favourite to take out the overall.