A quiet afternoon, a few beers and a decent feed. The perfect preparation to the final stage of the race.
After scrounging around the camp last night I managed to dig up half a cup of flour, some sundried tomatoes, and onion and a couple of potatoes to make quite a reasonable bangers and mash with onion gravy. Washing it down with a couple of beers and the last of the choccy biscuits I was off to bed full and happy, yet still quite tired from the week so far.
The landscape has change drastically as we moved to the northern edge of the desert. There is alot more vegetation here and the dunes, although much further apart, are significantly taller. To this end the race director Mark Polley has told us we will have extra time in the first half of the stage as he expects that most riders will have to walk the dunes. After the first water stop we will revert to normal Sweep time as we will be on the gravel road into Birdsville.
The early dunes are just as he has promised. Big, really big. And soft right across the top. Many riders walk both up and down the dunes, athough on some it is possible to find a small hard patch on the top to get back on and get going so you can ride down the far side. The gaps between the dunes are long and flat, up to 1.5km allowing all the riders to make reasonable time. The front bunch doesn't really take off today, there seems little point. The race for all intents and purposes has been won, so today is about getting as many riders as possible home.
The final dune looms larger than life in front of me. Big Red. The dune is monterous, even the 'short cut' which travels a further kilometre to the south and passes over a saddle in the dune called Little Red is huge. This is my last walk. Once I cross this dune it is hard packed corrugated road all the way into town, some 35 kilometres away. It sounds like a relief, but the currugations bring up once again the small issue of saddle sores.... sliding further back on teh saddle to get the pressure off my bum I lean forwad on the bars and wind it up. 35km should not take me more than an hour and a half. Today is done.
Crossing the line in Birdsville feels like one of the greatest acheivements I could make, however it is not until that moment that I realised that I took the brakes off my bike a week ago. passing straight through the finish line and another block and a half, eventually the bike slows down on the unfamiliar tar and I turn around and head back to the pub. Finished.
The worst thing I have ever done on a bike, and one of the best times I have had in my life.