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 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 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 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 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 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
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
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 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 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
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