(Posted - 20 May 2011)
Not as dramatic as past stage finishes, but just as fitting was the final stage result of the Ingkerreke Commercial Mountain Bike Enduro, with the lead trio of Andy Blair, Aiden Lefmann and Jason English crossing the line abreast to confirm overall standings in that order.
Racing as a pack and knowing podium places would not be affected, the trio pre-arranged a neutralised sprint about two kilometres out from the line in memory of their mountain biking mates James ‘Willo’ Williamson and Alice Springs-born Tavis Johannsen, who both passed away last year. Both riders had competed in the Enduro.
The line-up finish means that none of the top riders will receive the normal time credit bonuses and all three names will be engraved on the Tavis Johannsen memorial trophy presented to the winner of the last stage.
With no time difference changes between the three for the 40km Stage Seven, final disparities overall will remain the same as yesterday: Blair a mere 38 seconds ahead of Lefmann after five days and 250km of desert racing, and English another 1 minute 18 seconds astray.
“Jason (English) went up front early and set the tempo – he was a bit upset about yesterday," said Blair. “But he couldn’t shake us, then he had a bit of a mechanical, so we got away. That’s when we had a chat about dedicating the stage to Willo and Tavis by coming in together. Jase caught us up and he was happy to come in on it.
“I think it was a special moment for all of us – we’d had a minute silence at race start for them and I’ve probably been waiting over a year to dedicate a race to Willo – he was a close friend."
“It (the three abreast crossing) also showed a bit of solidarity between riders. We’ve been racing so hard and close all week, I think it’s a fitting way to finish a final stage together. When it comes down to just a handful of seconds after five days of riding, that shows we’ve had to earn it."
After the drama of yesterday’s night stage, it was a more considered ride from both female contenders today, with Anna Beck recovering well from a huge unsaddling in the dark to power home today in first place for the stage ribbon.
But the overall Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro title goes to World 24-Hour Solo mountain bike champion, Jess Douglas, who played it safe and consistent today, knowing she had a nine minute buffer. Douglas crossed the line two minutes behind Beck, smiling and happy that her “mountain biking holiday" has turned out so successfully.
“I just kept thinking, it’s the last stage, it doesn’t matter how much pain you’re in, it doesn’t matter because I can have a wine tonight," said a stoked Douglas. “I thought she can’t possibly gain nine minutes on me, I just have to be honest. So I took my time through some techy stuff and just tried to find the flow."
And is she happy to keep the yellow jersey?
“Absolutely, because it stinks of me anyway! Actually I booked this event in as a bit of a holiday reward after winning the World 24 Hour Solo title over 12 months ago, so I was here to have fun as much as anything else. To win it is just a big bonus."
There were some tense moments for followers of the Junior category, as Alice Springs rider Ryan Standish chased Billy Sewell’s lead. He needed to find nearly six minutes and pushed hard to cross the line first. Five and a half minutes later, Sewell crossed the line with a final solo sprint to maintain a rough thirty seconds and the category crown.
Riders and volunteers now look forward to a presentation dinner at the Chifley Hotel in Alice Springs where 300 people will celebrate the achievements of both elite and backpack riders who have traversed 250km of desert, mostly singletrack, in the stunning environs surrounding Alice Springs.
PROVISIONAL RESULTS STAGE 7 (40km):
1-3. Andy Blair 01:50:49
1-3. Jason English 01:50:49
1-3.Aiden Lefmann 01:50:49
1. Anna Beck 02:20:14
2. Jessica Douglas 02:22:59
3. Anne Antrecht 02:32:07
OVERALL PROVISIONAL RESULTS FINAL timings to come
1. Andy Blair
2. Aiden Lefmann
3. Jason English
1. Jess Douglas
2. Anna Beck
3. Jo Wall