Mt. Mulligan – Granite Creek Dam (163 km / 3000 m)
The initial 45 kilometres of this stage were played out in a fast-moving peloton which contained all the main contenders for overall honours. I am starting to learn the intricacies of this type of racing and I am also reaping the benefits of Pete Selkrig’s extensive knowledge of road racing from his previous experience as a professional rider. I was able to cope with the many surges in pace and was feeling reasonably comfortable until we approached the first of the five feeding stations. Pete warned me of what was about to happen but I was still caught out.
With the group being fairly large, riders were keen to get to the water and energy taps, fill their bottles, and leave quickly in order to remain in the main group. On viewing the Depot, I was suddenly swamped by nervous riders and then unable to get to the hydration taps. I left with two other riders, as well as Cory Wallace and Mark Frendo. While they were able to bridge the gap, I had to work excessively hard with the other two to catch up. The group did eventually sit up, but I was soon to pay dearly for the lost energy. Only a couple more surges and I was expelled from the back of the group, and left to ride alone for the next 22 kilometres. At Depot 2, I was caught by a group of five riders, including Martin, Andy, Liesbeth and Kristof.
We all took off together to tackle the steep climb ahead and almost immediately I found myself ahead of the other riders. Soon I was joined by ex-pro rider Daniele Bertozzi, and was able to hold his wheel for long enough to gap the riders behind. When I dropped back I was eventually joined by Austrian, Peter Muhl and we rode together for a long period of time. As we approached Depot 3, a gate lay ahead, slightly ajar. At the last moment, I thought I saw a gap to the other side and sped towards it at 40 km/h. The Marshall screamed out that it was a barbed wire fence which I just couldn’t see because of the glare of the sun and the sweat and dirt on my sunglasses. I braked hard and, although my bike stopped, I was catapulted onto the top of the fence. Blood oozed out of my left arm and leg and, at the nearby depot, as I had my bottles filled, the blood was washed away by the attending support crew.
I set off with Peter following behind and we swapped turns until we reached the dirt track and a multitude of hills. He was now struggling on the climbs and, as we approached a few riders ahead, he dropped back. I was alone again but riding reasonably strongly despite the heat. The blood had stopped and the body was actually feeling fine. As I approached the last depot, I was spotted by M2 rival Zbigniew Mossoczy and he shot off like a scolded cat. I filled up at the depot but I was not going to waste all my energy chasing too hard. He held the gap and I was able to finish fourth in M2 (20th overall), which was enough to move me back to third overall and 18th in GC. Pete is now 16th and Martin is 24th.