Laura – Hope Vale (113 km / 1100 m)
The usual chaos ensued at the first feed station. On the approach, the pace quickened but I was able to propel myself to the front and to one of the first taps. I managed to get away in the first of the chasing groups. As the groups merged, I relaxed a little too long near the back and I was spat out soon after. Race leaders Mark Frendo and Cory Wallace were once again caught out, but when I tried to re-join with their chasing group, that also included Martin Wisata and New Zealander, Hamish Morrin, I just couldn’t maintain the pace for the ten minutes required and I was once again chasing shadows. To make matters worse, I now had a head wind to contend with for the next thirty kilometres. I ground away, alone, until I reached Depot 2. A group were closing albeit fairly slowly from behind.
As the road became slightly hillier I was caught by a group of around five riders. They were swapping turns but the speed was fairly ‘casual’. I decided to go my own pace up the small climbs and see who was strong enough to come with me. Kristof Roelandts, Andy Tubbs and Christian Wenger (who had crashed right in front of me on an early water crossing) all managed to break away. We were able to stay together on the first of the bigger climbs, before only Kristof and I remained. As the descents increased, we were able to increase the speed and swap turns to reduce the draining effect of the headwind.
Approaching the finish, we decided we would cross the line together. This was not a particularly difficult stage in terms of terrain, but losing the peloton after only thirty kilometres with long, straight flat roads and a headwind made it far more tiring for me. I finished the race in ninth (M2) and 31st overall. I am still fifth in M2 and 21st overall, while Pete is 15th and Martin is 26th.