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Craig Sheppard_20150506-Canon EOS 5D Mark III_MG_9409

Words by Carina Newman.
Photos by Craig Sheppard.

Stage 3 was interesting. Monday morning. 103km, flat stage until a 4km pinch (with an elevation gain of 80 metres) to the top of a dam and the finish line. The first part of the race was along a highway out of town, which was made of pretty poorly put together slabs of concrete and a few random piles of bitumen to keep us on our toes. There were several attempts for a break by some of the men but no one managed to stay away. So I rode with the bunch until the 50km mark when I looked up from watching the broken sections of pavement to realise that somehow the bunch was 20m ahead of me and the gap was growing quicker than I could process what was happening. There was pretty much nothing I could do to get back on. I rode with a few other girls for the next 10 or so kilometres. The weather was the complete opposite to what Melbourne had just become, 40 degree heat, no clouds and probably no ozone. It felt like we were riding in an oven. Lucky we had a motorbike with us. People dropped off one by one until I was eventually riding alone. I came to a little town with a few people waiting at a bus stop under a bridge who were waving me left. Cool, left I went.

Roughly 50km later I decided something was wrong. I stopped at a few shops that were along the road and asked around for the dam I was supposed to be arriving at in the next within the next few kilometres. I found a guy who didn’t speak any English but just laughed at me and pointed in the opposite direction when I mentioned the name of the dam to him. He pointed at his scooter and gestured for me to jump on the back. Learning from Jimmy the day before, having no water, no friends and no idea which direction to head, I decided I’d jump on and let the nice man take me to where I was supposed to be.

We arrived back to the bus stop were I’d taken my left turn, went back on to the road I was originally riding on, went under the bridge and turned left. I’d turned one street and about 50m too early.

Sitting on the back of a scooter holding a bike in the air is without a doubt the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever done. I was cramping in my feet, my shoulders, my hips and calves but I didn’t want to ask to pull over because the guy was already doing me such a huge favour! IT eventually became too much and I dropped my bike off the back of the scooter travelling down a highway at about 45km an hour. He laughed at me. And now that I think about it that’s probably the reason I found the mystery crack, that sent my bike to bike heaven, in my frame last week. We jumped back on and kept going.

After probably an hour of sitting on the back of this scooter a ute came driving right up behind us beeping its horn. It was the race officials collecting the direction signs from the race. So I chucked my bike in the back, thanked Mr Scooter and jumped in the car. A much more pleasant way to travel.

I was pretty embarrassed after the saga from the day before (turns out a few of the other women got lost too :-/) but was eager to get back and hear how the boys had gone. Turns out they all had a pretty unreal race. Mitch got a flat about 20km in and somehow managed to monster back to the bunch to then lead Nick in a break to the bottom of the hill where Nick used his tiny legs to get up to the dam shortly after the leaders (who had been away since the 30km mark). And James had tried to bridge the gap a little earlier in the race, stayed away for 15 or 20km (not quite getting there) util he decided to let the bunch catch him and take him to the finish – not too bad an effort considering he’d ridden 190km without water the day before.

The guys were the only ones left at the dam and I think they were pretty happy to see I was safe and sound. We jumped on the bus, told our stories to each other and had a very tasty beer!

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