The 16 brave souls who rode in the Simpson Desert Bike Challenge, five-day multi-stage bike race through the Simpson Desert, are still cleaning the sand out of their ears after returning from the race over the past week, but there’s no wiping the grins off their faces.
This year the Simpson was a 572km, 10-stage race from Purni Bore in South Australia to Birdsville in Queensland. [private]
The Simpson Desert delivers varied but tough riding conditions, and participants go into the event with modest ambitions – completing the entire course is a monumental achievement, and one that the desert does not often allow.
In this environment, where sand moves like water and whole dunes can relocate in a day, the course often changes from one year to the next.
This year’s course sent riders along the French Line, the Rig Road, the K1 Line, and then onto to the QAA Line, to take in some 700 sand dunes – some over 30 metres high – countless corrugations and a sand storm.
Race director Mark Polley was pleased with the course: ‘This was the first year we’ve done all of the QAA Line. It meant we had no diversions (in the car to get riders across sections).
‘The course worked as I expected it to. It captured the essence of the desert and had challenges for the riders and technical 4WD driving for support crews.
‘It was a great success. It brought everyone together.’
In another first for the event, which is affectionately known as ‘Five Days in Hell,’ Sydney-siders Alan Keenleside and Murray Rook came first-equal.
Alan and Murray had prepared for the Simpson together, and they rode together throughout the week. At the end of the stage five Alan even paused at the top of the last dune, well in sight of the finish line, to wait for Murray to get up the dune so they could finish the stage together.
They had completed the 67km-stage in 41°C heat. Can a race this hard really be that much fun?
We sent our Super Sub Nic Learmonth along disguised as support crew for one of the riders to get the low-down. Stay tuned to read her account of the event.