Race Route 2017
Rig Road, Warburton Track, Outside Birdsville Track.
Race Director’s Report SDBC 2017
Well, the 2017 race lived up to the moniker of the world’s toughest bike race. We had extreme heat, rain, mud, cold winds and the endless gibber of the Birdsville Track.
- We had our first mixed relay team.
- We had a rider who cycled to race start.
- We had a gold standard team of officials (Medics, Water Stops, Course Markers, Timekeepers, Tail End Charlie, Sweep).
- We had daytime maximum temperatures in the high 40s, followed by rain and then by two days of cold winds with a maximum of 17 degrees.
- (And after the race, we very nearly didn’t get out of Birdsville!)
In spite of a lower than average number of entrants we all had a great time and we most certainly had a race on our hands.
It became quite clear from the morning of Day 1 that it was going to be a battle between Graham Hancox and Eckert Altenkamp. However, Eckert built up a substantial lead on the first day and Graham and the rest of the field were never in a realistic position to haul him back. We had a number of different stage winners which kept us all on the finish line holding our breath as to who was going to appear first.
By Day 3 morning it appeared that the only thing that would threaten Eckart’s lead was a mechanical failure. And that’s exactly what happened. – a potentially race ending mechanical failure.. But then we witnessed what this race is all about. Adam Gowlett stepped in to help, despite the fact that if Eckert couldn’t finish, Adam would himself be in a strong position to win. Instead of resting after finishing the long morning stage, Adam repaired Eckart’s bike.
Day 3 afternoon was a bit more challenging than expected. The medics were kept busy with battered bums, Car Doctor Dave was kept busy and Sweep got swept. The rain arrived and though not particularly heavy, the track soon turned to mud. In fact it was so muddy that the rear group of riders couldn’t even get their wheels to turn. Sweep got lucky and found his last victim for the stage as he was desperately trying to reach the finish line. His wheels were locked and with 20kgs of mud on board, the bike was impossible to carry.
We had desperately wanted the Inside Track to open. Much to the delight of the riders, half way through the race, the DPTI website announced it was open. We knew, but we suspected that most of the riders didn’t realise, that after such a long closure the track was likely to be ‘testing’, to say the least. However, on Day 4 morning, the rains were ever more threatening and after the rain of the previous day we made the decision to re-route along the Outside track. This turned out to be a wise decision. A vehicle exiting the Inside Track reported it was now impassable to bikes and vehicles (and that was before the fresh rains had arrived). Phew! We had a lucky escape!
In the end, Eckert finished a comfortable first and Graham managed to hold off a late charging Adam to take second place.
The riders rode together to the finish line at Birdsville with Rock showing true grit and managing to complete a stage. We even managed to purloin a bike for Vivian and she cruised in the last 15kms.
We welcomed back old officials and were blessed with some new ones who willingly stepped up when we lost one of our water stops due to sickness.
My memory is probably somewhat jaded by the passage of time and the consumption of Cooper’s finest in Birdsville, but it does appear that we are the rainmakers there. More than once we have brought rain to Birdsville, either at the finish or on the Sunday. This year it belted down but fortunately our Race Dinner was inside the hotel. The heavy rain certainly left us with a worrying night’s sleep on Saturday and we were all relieved to see the open sign on the road East (although some of us had a 1500km detour home).
My sincere thanks to the Committee who made it happen. I just sort of turned up on the day and took all the glory.
My personal thanks go to retiring committee members Mark Polley and Kate McPhee who have jointly been on the committee now for more than 20 years. They have certainly left the race organisation in pristine condition for next year’s Race Director and the Committee.
To all of you, the list is lengthy, who helped in lots of other ways, a massive thanks.
Race Director 2017
Final Results 2017
Age Group Winners
Our small group has done an amazing job to raise a total amount of $26,181.34.
Thanks to riders, officials, support crews, donors, families and friends for your generosity and enthusiasm in supporting the Royal Flying Doctor Service and in helping make the 2016 Desert Challenge a success in every way.
|Desert Challenge Inc||Amount|
|Fines Tin & Thank yous||$603.40|