Race to the Rock: Daily Race Reports

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Race to the Rock 2016 is an unsupported 2,300 km ride from Adelaide to The Rock (Uluru known also colloquially as Ayres Rock) via the gruelling Mawson Trail and incredibly isolated desert Oodnadatta Track.

Visit the Race to the Rock hub page to watch daily video updates, read reports, and live track the racers.

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Will Hartnett

Day Seven wrap up

One week deep and yet another 24 hours of high stakes drama! Last nights rain has put a massive hold on all of the field except superwoman Sarah who has dodged the thunderstorms and rain to take what is certainly an unbeatable hold over this race.

Reports of rain were coming from as far south as BRad and Brenton holed up in Melrose.

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Meanwhile futher up the road other were hanging around reigional centers such as Hawker, Leigh Creek and Lyndhurst. Ty managed to push on to Marree but it wasn't without its toils.

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Tim Kreiger had a pretty rough nights sleep just short of Lyndhurst in a thunderstorm. 

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Good to see some well prepared individuals out there en route.

Keith's day didn't go as planned and it looks like his race to the rock is over for this year.

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John, Ben, Ty and Olson (young blood) are now waiting in Marree hoping for better road conditions soon. Ben has been doing some great video diaries on the Quad lock Facebook page so check them out.

Gunther headed back to William Creek on day seven, I suppose we will have to wait to hear his story as to why he back tracked. Oodnadatta got no rain, however isolated thunderstorms may have affected his progress. His average speed did not drop at all judging by the spot data so he must be going ok out there and will most probably ride the Stuart Highway to Kulgera, he has to get home to Belgium somehow !

Sarah's efforts are nothing short of amazing! Part luck, part courage, but mostly grit and determination, for anyone who's met Sarah I bet it's not being done silently, she's probably scaring wildlife right now with various expletives as she rides into the night approaching Finke. Today she passed through the vast Gibber plain north of Hamilton station, this was a highlight of my trip last year, the sense of isolation is overwhelming!

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I'm out of town this weekend so might not get tomorrows wrap up done, thanks for reading, let's hope I can get one more post in before Sarah finishes!

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Will Hartnett

Day six wrap up

 I woke to this update from Jesse who is now travelling as a passenger with the Cycling tips Holden film crew:

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I found myself starring at the keyboard in disbelief. Whilst the cars couldn't get through Sarah was heading north after 4 hours of sleep near Edwards Creek 110km short of Oodnadatta. Having traveled the road in bad weather before and my ride down it last year I knew it would be tough, the rivers would still be swollen but not as bad as the day before and a 4 am get away would mean 6-8 hours to Oodnadatta at best. The crossing of Neales creek at Anglebuckina would be the crux. Following the Map progress site was nerve wracking.

I had a deep moment of introspection 'these people are crazy, what are they doing riding out there.' Then I realized that was me last July. I had gone it alone out there too and left family and friends also starring at a dot on the screen. From the screen in front of you, it may seem like the end of the earth from which you may never return, but when you are out there it is very much about measuring every effort and pedal stroke and keeping the wheels turning. A bike is possibly the best vehicle to arm yourself with.

With that in mind day six rolled on for the Peleton. However, unlike the Tour de France, there were no echelons to hide from the every increasingly northerlies. After midnight and all day the wind gusted up to 50km/h from the north according to the BOM. Sarah still manged over 200km today into the wind, a very impressive feat! For the first five, all now  into the desert, today would have been unrelenting.

Gunther left William Creek around lunch and pushed 100km to the north but his spot tracker has him heading back to William Creek now so I don't know what he is up to but he's making good ground in the wrong direction :S

Keith and Ty are both at Lyndhurst for the night, the forecast storms rolled in south of Marre and dropped 10mm of rain. I would imagine they are hedging their bets that the road will be faster and dryer by morning.

John Ben and Olson have reached Parachilna just before the weather kicked in.

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Having given up on his 'Brad'bury moment, Brad was content with minor placing and had settled in for Schnitty night in Melrose.

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As the day comes to a close Sarah is 1634km into the ride and resting at Hamilton station:

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It might be too early to speculate, but this might just be the world hardest bicycle event!

 

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Will Hartnett

Day five wrap up

The Battle for first just intensified. With the Flinders ranges well behind them, Gunther and Sarah were racing out into the desert separated by 40-50 km for most of the day. The road that skirts Lake Eyre South is flat except for the occasional dry river bed you dip into every so often, the distance markers every 10 kilometers play with your head, sometimes it feel you've ticked one off easy and other times they drag on forever. Marree to Finke is 716km, the scenery changes but the feeling of complete isolation doesn't, this should set the mood for the next few days as the front runners press on into the desert.  

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Sarah rolled out of Marree after dinner on day four and got a few pedal turns in before calling it a night. Gunther appeared to be sleeping in an old humpy on the side of the highway just short of Marree

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The William Creek Hotel is an iconic outback pub and I implore everyone to visit whether it be on bike or in a 4x4. A few more photo's of the big wet popped up on their Facebook page today. Sarah called through mid afternoon and spent up big! She timed it impeccably as the road opened up just as she arrived. A few people reading this maybe concerned about what this means as she heads out on soft roads only just open to traffic. Having faced a similar circumstance on my trip south last year I can say given the sunny skies and strong forecast northerlies are going to bake the road dry pretty quick but there maybe a few tricky river crossings to negotiate and damp salt pans. Expect to see average speeds drop a bit in the coming days.

Back in the mid field a few guys found themselves jumping up the leader-board as more people pulled out. Justin sadly announced his retirement as it appears the tweaking of his ankle on day three was not going to improve.

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I was pretty bummed to hear this, Justin was the dark horse going into this event. He hadn't done many rides of this nature other than a lot of back to back double centuries, but having ridden a few of these with him I can say he's as tough as nails, he would have loved the desert section. He grabbed a photo of Kiwi rider Keith Payne as he passed through Parachilna. Keith is now the third placed rider. I don't know much about Keith other than that he did the 'Tour Aotearoa' back in February. I reckon one of his Aussie mates must have really told him a yarn about viscous magpies too, that's quite the cable tie set-up!

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Ben and John did a great little video from day four including some footage of just how vicious the Magpies are in South Australia. Those Cable ties don't seem to be having the desired effect John :) (link in text)

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I was a little concerned Olsen aka 'Young Blood' may have been toying with the idea of calling it a day from Hawker but it turns out he'd just hooked up with the guys from US postal and was getting a bit of Jungle juice so he could stomp though the field later.Olson.JPG

Olsen called his mates at work to say g'day from the hospital. Reports were he was feeling a bit dizzy heading into Hawker so he went to the hospital and they gave him some fluids for dehydration. Not too long after he was back out of there, he's now ridden through to Wilpena resort and sits in sixth. Go Young Blood, go hard but drink more water!

One of the big movers of day five was Tim Kreiger, he woke up on the side of the road near Cradock and has ridden through most of the rough sections of the Mawson and appears to be camped in Bunyeroo Gorge, making it another 200km day for Tim.

 

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Further back in the field Brad was gaining aspirations of greatness, he also was hoping for some love from the film crew, sorry Brad they are long gone. There are some fantastic pubs in Melrose so i'm not expecting Brad to get going too early on day six.

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Tonight Sarah is camped and Edwards Creek, 110km from Oodnadatta. The store opens at 7am so I would be expecting her to get moving in the next few hours so as to make it there for breakfast. Beyond Oodnadatta it's over 300km of even tougher roads to Finke so its a critical re-supply point. Gunther is having a big rest in William creek. Tomorrow's winds are forecast to be strong Northerlies, I can't tell you how hard this will make day six. When I rode south last year I had five days of strong southerlies, I took to riding into the night to beat them.

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Will Hartnett

Day Four wrap up

Day three always seems to be the tipping point in these ultra endurance events, pain creeps into places that have never hurt before. It plays with your sleepless mind, you imagine your knee exploding or your Achilles tearing away, maybe that niggling saddle sore begins to feel like you've rubbed chili powder into it. When the position of the front runners looked somewhat set in stone, the leader board changed up considerably on day four. 

I got this message from Justin mid morning:

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I was surprised to hear him think he 'just cruised the singletrack to Blinman' Subtracting his hour and a half nap, he got through there 15 minutes quicker than Jesse. He reported "That section from Wilpena was rad. The clay was tacky and you just stayed off the brakes and picked lines." Those moto skills were obviously coming in handy! Looks like he's playing his card well with the road closures up north!

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The northern end of the Mawson is by far the most scenic but also the toughest, the first four did amazingly to get through there that quick, especially Sarah who is only on her third MTB ride!

Further north The William Creek Hotel got out for a bit of plane flight yesterday and the photo's tell a tale of a very wet outback. The road is still not open between William Creek and Oodnadatta. Sarah might find herself getting sick of the William Creek burgers waiting for the roads to open if she keep going this strong!

 After last nights mishap Jesse went live to announce his retirement from the race, that wasn't before he rode 65km to the Leigh Creek hospital to see how bad his injuries were. That's a hard pill to swallow for a guy who worked so hard to get this crazy adventure off the ground. I'm sure he'll be returning for some unfinished business next year!

Gunther heard the news upon reaching Parachilna and sent his wishes. The beauty of these events is even the fierce front running competitors look out for each other. 

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Gunther's day wasn't without its problems. Now that the riders are approaching the outback timing is everything. Going too hard through the night might mean you miss vital refueling spots. This happened to Gunther as he got into Wilpena an hour before the shop opened.  It's a great part of the world to be a tourist Gunther!

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Tales of pain weren't just confined to the front runners. Jake and Tim parted ways in Laura after Jake found both his knees not liking the cold mornings and big kilometers. Jake has now slipped into tourist mode in the hope his knees recover, I dare say it might give him some time to take some amazing photo's hes known so well for.

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Tim has been going hard all day and looks set to get into Cradock around midnight. That's a big 200km for him today, he took this photo from Arden Vale road just outside of Quorn, saying he was feeling good and had a great day! it looks like a posse of four will be ridiing out of Cradock together tomorrow!

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As usual BRad and Brenton were living it up at the back of the field. They got to the Mt Bryant school house and settled in for the night with a bottle of Stones green ginger wine.

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Yet again Ross was quick to offer Brad a bit of race advice, maybe Brad does have a plan at the back of the field? Only time will tell!

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At as of 11pm in Adelaide, Sarah was a few kilometers short of the halfway point, in an area just south of Lake Eyre south. I rode some of the same stretch of road at night last year and found the most daunting thing to be the cars coming from 40+ kilometers away with spotlights on. They looked so close only to disappear momentarily then resurface again from dips in the land. The riders will begin to experience long stretches of road like below, if its windy there will be nowhere to hide. Riding at night out here is beautiful but finding the best wheel rut to stick your bike in is hard work! If you want to read about my detour off the Oodnadatta last year click here. Catch you tomorrow, Will

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Will Hartnett

Day three wrap up

The day started for Gunther with some new pedal's he picked up from OTE sports at 4:45am. Good on those guys for helping him get back in the race! They just had their busiest weekend of the year hosting '18 hours of Melrose' MTB event but still took time to help a brother out!14138885_10209237202398930_2375201297049840121_o.jpg

Jesse rolled through Hawker around 530am so it's is doubtful anything was open. He looks to have encountered a bit more sticky mud heading towards Wilpena but nothing compared to the first day.

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Looks like some of the front runners found night two a little cold. Temperatures in the mid north hovered around 0-3 degrees. Jesse recorded this video from somewhere out past Hawker early this morning. Justin stopped shortly after Melrose around 930pm on day two then took off around midnight and appears to not have stopped much yet. He's possibly only had a few hours of sleep since Saturday morning. Sarah slept in a park in Melrose and got going shortly after Justin and has spent most of the day chasing him. Sarah almost caught him in Hawker, Justin rolled out only 3 minutes ahead of her referencing the map progress virtual checkpoint. By late afternoon they were rolling along the Morlana scenic route together. Guther has been chasing hard all day and sits 20km back at 9pm. So the race for second is only just warming up!

With the race for second entering the night, there's not many options for food out there other than cooking up a bit of road kill. Sarah, Justin and Gunther would have had their last decent feed in Hawker mid afternoon. Gunther also got an early lunch at Quorn. 14231808_10209239422094421_6806720338334740142_o.jpg

In a move that channeled a bit of 'Transam Sarah', Justin rode the wrong way out of Cradock mid afternoon (as seen below) but must have sensed something was wrong early and turned back. Looks like Justin will have clocked up an extra 8ks by the time they reach Uluru, not as impressive as Sarah's extra's in the Transam but nice try Justin, nice try :) 

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Back in the mid field the battle for sixth is heating up, sixth through to twelfth are separated by only 12 kilometers as the night wears on. Tim Kreiger hit his spot button in Laura to say 'I'm OK. Just checking in for the night. Today was probably rad!' Jake Thomas and him are travelling together and look like they too had a cold hard morning:

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A bit further up the road near Stone Hut, Ty is pushing on, Ben and John might be pulling up stumps and Olsen too. Ty Ben and John utilized the old Mt Bryant primary school on night two, which would have made of a warm cozy nights sleep. It looks like they started day three with a bit of Yoga session! It certainly is looking green in the mid north at the moment!

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BRad has made it to Mt Bryant school on night three and it appears he's getting a hard time on social media from his buddies!

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Nice one Ross!

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Brad posted this photo earlier in the day complaining of the lack of ATM's en route ;) Ahh, the serenity! Him and Brenton are reveling in their roles as tail end Charlie!

As of 6 pm Jesse just posted the fastest known time for a South-North Mawson trail attempt:

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Nuts! That's 900km people and given the conditions on day one, truly outstanding! He didn't hang around Blinman long, I've been banging on about the great food on offer at my mates pub in Parachilna so I think he was making tracks through the Gorge dreaming of a burger and fries, maybe even a Potato cake or two! Anyhow it looks like he might have had a bit of a tumble, the road pretty much follows the creek and it would have a lot of water and large river stones in it from last weeks rain, so treacherous going!

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Let's hope it's nothing too serious and he can get back on the road again tomorrow!

Well if you thought it was a one man show out front think again, these events have a habit of turning themselves on their head at times. To the north, beyond Jesse's bruises, lay more challenges. The road from William creek to Oodnadatta is still closed, with 4WD access from Lyndhurst to William Creek the road is still going to be tough going especially through some of the clay pans and salt lakes!

With patchy reception beyond Leigh creek we won't have much to go from other than the dots in the next few days so i'll be relying on a bit of my own content from last years ride to give you a sense of what the riders are facing as they head into the desert!

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Will Hartnett

Day Two wrap up

Life got a bit easier for the adventurers on the road today, with the rain abating and the ground drying up. Jesse and Justin appeared to bivvy for a bit out in the barren hills beyond Burra. Sarah and Gunther caught up with each other at some time in the morning and spent the day riding together.  

As of 11pm, 42 hours in, Jesse has manged 670km and is riding across the Willochra plains. He managed to sneak a meal in at Quorn just before the kitchen's closed. Hard to know what pub he chose judging from the tracker but from memory the Austral offers the best meal!

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Justin's tracker hasn't moved for a few hours since he rode out of Melrose around 930pm. Sarah and Gunther appear to have stopped for a rest in Melrose, the mountain bike mecca of the Flinders Ranges, but I dare say they won't be hanging around to check out the trails! Having missed a few food refueling stops they might have had a hard afternoon of calorie deficit. Gunther posted on Instagram from Hallett around mid morning a little despondent to find the general store closed on a Sunday.

Gunther's woes intensified later in the day when he posted a photo of his broke Time pedal. At least these pedals are double sided allowing him to continue on without too much trouble. Only time will tell if he hangs around to get some new pedals in Melrose tomorrow.

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The mid fielders are all out around Mt Dare tonight so a bit of a posse might form tomorrow once they all get to Spalding.

At the back of the field Brad and Brenton were having a great time trying to find as much single track as possible.Brad and brenton.pngBrad ST.png

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Brad takes pride in both his beard and being tail end charlie!

Tonight's going to be very frosty in the Mid North, so it will be a cold night out for those who choose to sleep out and I would expect to see a few people slow to get moving in the morning.

Jesse is now well into the zone where he will need to be very tactical with food stops. If he goes too hard he might be waiting for the Hawker general store to open tomorrow, allowing Justin to claw a bit of ground back. Beyond Hawker the distance between re-supply begins to increase dramatically. Rawnsley Park has coke and ice-cream, Wilpena is well stocked but has limited trading hours. 

 

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Will Hartnett

Day One wrap up

Day one was tough, really tough, as if the first big hill (the biggest climb on course) wasn't enough, the participants had to contend with wind, rain and the stickiest mud known to man. Check out the Day one Vid here.

As expected all the field had made it at least as far as the Barossa Valley, others had pushed on to the Clare valley. As expected the front runners Jesse Justin, Gunther and Sarah were pushing out for Mt Bryant, the highest point on the Mawson trail. At midnight Jesse had clocked 313km, Justin was at 280. Gunther had found a public toilet in Burra for a bit of a sleep around 11pm. He said on instagram, 'my feet and hands are like ice cubes'. Sarah got into Burra just after midnight, 274 km from Adelaide.

Photo below is from Jesse's 2013 Mawson Trail record breaking attempt, the highest point on the course. Probably his goal for day one:

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Brad messaged me from the Barossa Valley, as he was sipping the first beer of many on his adventure. He said great trail so far,a few beers here will be Golden! His bike may have said otherwise:

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The weather is looking good for the week ahead, so here's to the track drying out a bit and everyone saving the truly epic moments for the desert!

 

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Will Hartnett

Welcome the daily report from the keyboard. I'll be giving a day to day wrap up of what's happening in the field as I see it. Having done most of this route last year I have a good insight as to where the riders are and what they have in-store for themselves as they aim to reach Uluru as fast as they can! If you want to read a bit about my journey last year click here

Personally I know most of the riders attempting this self supported challenge, so have a bit insight as to how long it might take certain individuals to finish the route, how they went about preparation and some of the gear they will be carrying with them.

Current course conditions in the North are looking less than favorable with an unprecedented rain event falling in what is usually the driest month of the year. Having spent many years tour guiding in this region I am quietly confident the roads will dry up by the time the front runners reach the Oodnadatta track around Tuesday.

Her's a quick wrap up of the players I know a bit about:

Jesse Carlsson

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Jesse is no stranger to ultra marathon cycling. He placed second in the 2013 Tour divide and first in the 2015 TransAm. He was still a few days short of winning the Transam when I rode into Oodnadatta last year. I messaged to congratulate him on him imminent win and he was already planning his next mission. He asked me about the possibilities of running a bikepacking event on a similar route to my tour. Fast forward 15 months and here we are with 20 people lined up. Jesse will be trying to do this as fast as he can. In 2013 He rode most of the 900km Mawson trail in three days until some muddy roads halted his progress.

Finish time: In a perfect world 6 days, given current conditions I think he might just scrape in under ten.

Bike: Curve GMX

Gunther Desmedt

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Gunther hails from Belgium and has a long History of participating in bikepacking events. Having tackled the Arizona trail race, the Tour Divide and the Highland trail race, he is well versed in what it takes to finish an event like this. Gunther has put in some big kilometers during the European summer and is hoping to get the job done quick and survive the Outback .

Finish time: 1-2 weeks 

Bike: Santos 29er with Rohloff 14 speed hub

Sarah Hammond

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Sarah Hammond stunned the world in June, riding off the front of the Transam bike race in a field of seasoned ultra cyclists. I cheekily asked Sarah if she was keen to 'Race to the rock' at her pre-Transam race farewell party  and was met with expletives and an outburst of laughter. Little did she know she would be lining up at the start line for the race to the rock only two months later. Having only just picked a mountain bike last month she's pretty fresh to sliding around on gravel and sleeping in the dirt but this won't stop her giving the rest of the field a good shake up!

Finish time: 7-10 days

Bike: Curve uprock 29er

Brad Mertens:

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Brad is an ex Sydney bike courier who loves a beer, he also loves a long ride, his aim is to drink a beer from every pub he visits en route.

Finish time: In time to get back for the World Single speed championships in Woodend on October 22nd. 

Bike : Surly ECR 29+ single speed

 

Olsen Hamilton-Smith

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Olsen has the young exuberance of the late 1800 bicycle explorers such as Jerome Murif, the first person to ride from Adelaide to Darwin in 1897. he came on a ride I organized last year, a 140km dirt road ride around the Grampians, at the time his biggest outing on a bike. His attitude alone will get him to the finish line like it did in the Grampians!

Finish time: two weeks but he might surprise himself!

Bike: Kona Unit with add the mods

Tim Krieger

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When Tim isn't riding his bike or hiking in the backcountry he's running an outdoor store in Adelaide. Tim is a seasoned outdoors man who will know the country he is in very well.

Finish time: 2 weeks

Bike: Salsa Vaya

 

Justin Matthews

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I'm backing Justin as the dark horse of this event, it will be the biggest ride he has undertaken but I've seen him regularly punch out 250km+ days on the dirt and back it up the following, usually on a single speed cross bike. He also has a history of racing dirt bikes on the Finke road so is no stranger to pain in the desert.

Finish time: 7-9 days, i know he's hoping to make the Finke general store by 2pm Saturday (7 days in)

Bike: Spot 650+ 1x11 speed

 

Tony Hoare

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Tony was going to chicken out but work told him he had to take the time off so decided to give it a crack anyhow and signed up last week. He called into visit me at Commuter cycles and pick my brain and pick up some Apidura kit to help carry his camping kit. He's a mate of Justins and a hard nut singlespeeder so should do well.

Finish time: Three weeks

Bike: Spot single speed belt drive

 

John Wright

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John spends lots of his time doing mixed terrain Audax rides which are a great training program for events like this. He's been planning for this trip for months now and this should aid him in finishing. Johns mate Ben will be riding with him, they are sharing a spot tracker and going by the name of Ben+John on the map progress site

Finish time: Three weeks

Bike : Niner 29er 

 

Jake Thomas

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When Jake isn't riding his bike he's building bikes for Treadly in Adelaide. Jake is more akin to the short course format of cross racing but his youthful enthusiasm will help him get through the long days.

Finish time: 3 weeks

Bike: Rohloff equipped Kona Unit 650+

 

There's two New Zealanders in the field of which at least one completed the Tour Aotearoa last summer so who know they may be very strong.

....more to come as the race unfolds

 

 

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