After a statistically rare day of rain in Alice Springs yesterday I expected to wake to a sunny morning, because, after all, what are the chances of having two days of rain in a row?! As it turned out, the rain was still hanging around and we got quite wet on the ride to The Chifley for the start of stage 1.
It was a pretty chilly and wet roll out behind the police escort for the neutral section through town and I think everyone was happy to see the patrol car pull off the front so that we could lift the pace and start to get warm.
As is normal for the first stage of a tour, there were a few nerves and a bit of hustle as we made our way up the first sandy fire road toward the KOM at the top of the cutting. This was probably magnified by the $200 up for grabs donated by the Alice Spring Cinema owner (and my host for the week) Paul Darvodelsky. Ben Hogarth set the pace for a bit and then Ben Mather led the front group into the bottom of the pinch up the cutting. I made a surge for the summit and was able to crest the top uncontested to keep the prize in the Darvodelsky household.
Soon after that we were into the singletrack and a front group of Lewis, Mather, Hogarth and I established itself with Kyle Ward and Mick Crosbie not far behind. Shaun and I were pretty keen to keep the pace high enough to make sure Kyle and Crosbie didn’t get an easy ride back into the race, but we weren’t really committed to putting it all out there, knowing that it is a long week.
I was on the front through a tricky section with about 10km to go and I sensed that there was a little gap behind so I gassed it up the next climb. I kept my head down for a couple of minutes and when I got a chance to look around I realised that I had a gap…sweet! From there I tried to keep the pace up and avoid getting caught. As I got closer to the finish I managed a couple of sneaky looks over my shoulder and couldn’t see anyone.
I eventually made my way into the Alice Springs velodrome to finish first in one of my favourite stages of the ICME. After a short wait to see who would follow it was my teammate Shaun who came in just ahead of Ben Mather and Ben Hogarth. Kyle Ward was 5th, Crosbie 6th and Tim “Bomber” Bennett was 7th only 2m45s down, making it a pretty condensed group on the GC for the elite men.
Rowena Fry took out the women’s event just 4 seconds ahead of my Swell-Specialized teammate Jenny Fay, setting up a bit of a showdown for the yellow jersey this afternoon in the hill climb TT thanks to the time bonuses on offer. Jenny King was 3rd, Terri “Stink” Rhodes 4th and Nienka Oostra 5th in what is probably the deepest women’s field the ICME has seen in recent years. It will be exciting to see how that unfolds.
Another rider doing the Darvodelsky household proud was Paul “Darvo” himself! He took out the Vintage category and with less than 5 minutes separating the top 5, it looks like another class that will provide some great racing though out the week.
I’m looking forward to the Hill Climb TT this afternoon. 300m of pain through a corridor of cow bells and shouting….should be fun.