Tuesday, September 29, 2009

So, this is sand.....

Day One of the Simpson Desert Challenge.


Its four thirty in the morning and I am standing, rather cross and quite cold and miserable in the middle of Australia's largest desert. Thank you for your concern, how do I feel? Uncomfortable.

Thirty other guys and their crews are going through the same pile of morning rituals; food, water, bathroom, water, bike, get dressed, water, coffee, water... there is so much to do and the race start is constantly approaching. "What time is it?" I ask, sucking on a water bottle. "Quarterpast 5", replies Uncle Dave absently chewing on a mouthfull of weetbix as he packs away swags and gets the car ready for the day.

After weighing in I wander back to the car and grab my bike and riding gear, there is 10 minutes from the start and the excitement is building in the camp as the riders wander to the startline. At 112.8kg I am the second heaviest rider in this years feild, that is really not going to help me at all in the soft sand. This morning is a 80km stage to start the race, about 25km of increasing dunes followed by a 10km run south between dunes before turning east into bigger dunes until lunch. The afternoon will be much the same.

Rolling off the start line we all feel our way over the first few dunes, a short play in sand riding the previous day was helpful, but after the tenth fall from stalling in the powder soft sand it is clear that there is a very steep learning curve coming up. At about the 6km marker I fall heavily again, no injury but something has gone wrong as the drive train has started to play up badly. Stop and fix it? That could take me 25minutes and then Iwill be in a dangerous position with sweep times, If I battle on it may come good. with fourstable gear combinations I continue on, but thes gear selections are still a significant issue, too high to spin my way over the sand dunes and far to low to sprint between the dunes on the clay topped road. the ending is inevitable. Sweep will get me today....

With one gear choice I continue to ride over as many dunes as I can, walking across the soft crests and coasting between the dunes, with only 5km left to the first water stop I might be able to get something sorted there. Not to be the case however, the Grimsweeper fulfilling his duties as I entered the first waterstsop, that is my first day done, second rider swept, fresh and ready to ride, but with a bike that just refuses to play.

A frantic lunch stop ensues. As most riders escape from the 40 degree heat and rest, I rebuild my rear derailier, and gear housings in the sand, less than ideal working conditions for such a finicky job. with 15min left before the afternoon stage, I have a result, 7 of the 9 gears work consistently, so I'm ready to give it another go. After the upset of the morning I am keen to have a go and try to put some km down.

The first 30km is a relatively hardpacked run south between dunes, and a good opportunity for me to stretch my legs again before turning back into softer terrain. Overtaking many riders on the harder surfaces I run quickly to the south and my spirits have risen quite alot, it feels good to actually get some km up on on the board. 700m short of the final water stop that dread horn blows behind me, Sweep has once again caught me in the soft dunes, with only 10km to go, clearly need to lift my game......

3 comments:

Matt said...

So did you bend the dérailleur tip in one of the falls?

But you are right about the sand - there is nothing quite like it. We had more than our share around Alice Springs, but we didn't have to crest many dunes!

Matt said...

And maybe you need one of these next time: http://www.cuckoobicyclecovers.com/

Ken + Lisa Schack-Evans said...

How did you post this on the 29th??? Did you have some kinda gucci satellite connectivity?