Day Four of the Simpson Desert Challenge
With the Warburton Crossing closed Mark, the race Director, has informed us of a change of program for today. This morning will be a 46km stage across hopefully hardpacked terrain followed by a 100km transit stage. The dunes in the Northern Simpson are too big to ride and the track is entirely sand, meaning that the transit is imperative if we are to make it to Birdsville by Saturday Lunch. Strangely no-one is really keen about driving, but such is life. We will get a final go at sand riding tomorrow with 30km of very large dunes culminating in the ascent of Big Red before we ride the last 35km into Birdsville.
46km followed by an afternoon off? no matter what I am going to finish today. The sandstorm has left the first 20km of apparently hardpacked track covered in nearly a foot of soft loose sand. the only option is to go off track. riding on the hard crust to the side of the track I wander along at times up to 500m from the track, just a scar on the landscape off to my left. that's fine because I am making good time today. The first waterstop appears unexpectedly to my left behind some trees. I have to backtrack across to the road to ride back to the stop. Collecting food and water I jump back on my bike for the last 5km before the claypan.
The claypan is hard and heavily corrugated. Despite the discomfort I push it into the "Big Dog' and accelerate down the track. I am not worried about cooking myself today. I have the afternoon off, anyway I am already on the hardpack and there is only 1.5km of dunes at the end of the stage. Clearing the second waterstop I follow the track further north around the lake, then the track turns due east across the middle of the lake. The last dunes are in sight. Pedalling flat out I hit 42kph across the lake, racing straight up the first dune. 50 minutes ahead of Sweep, I have today in the bag, in fact I could walk it from here and still finish in time. But that is not the point. Dropping tyre pressure and gears I ride the last kilometre or so into camp with a grin from ear to ear. Today is a good day.