Haig retires, minor place battles heat up, and a lesson in riding for the ‘younger’ generation

(Posted - 17 May 2012)

NOTE: Results for Stages 1-5 found HERE

The time trial Stage Five of the Ingkerreke Commercial Mountain Bike Enduro marked the end of overall second placed Jack Haig’s racing, with yesterday’s shoulder-crunching crash delivering a knockout blow. Considering an overseas schedule of racing in three weeks’ time, and a ginger shoulder not ripe for racing, the Team Torq rider made the decision to retire and did not line up this morning.

Haig’s decision meant Andy Blair’s lead pushed out to just under twenty minutes, but the gap didn’t deter him from having a crack at yet another stage win, maintaining his clean sweep for the week.

Having yesterday hinted at pushing the envelope “to make a statement," he rode conservatively but fast, pulling out a 59 minute 42 second ride, more than seven minutes askew of the course record set by Aidan Lefmann.

Behind Blair in the time trial stakes was Ben Hogarth with a 1:01:22 followed by Nick Both with a 1:02:09.

Without Haig in the line-up, overall second on the leaders’ board now falls to the shoulders of Ben Hogarth who is riding seven minutes ahead of his nearest rival, Chris Hansen, now in contention for an overall premium placing.

The battle for overall third in the men’s is where the action will likely remain for Stages Six and Seven, with three riders – Hansen, Stuart Brown, and Ben Gooley - all within four and a half minutes of each other. Nick Both, whose performance has steadily improved over the last four days, is only a further minute and a half in arrears and could also feature in the final standings.

In the women’s time trial, Melissa Anset returned to the winner’s circle this morning with a 1:12:07, while Sarah Holmes found her form with a strong ride to register a first podium of the event, coming second in 1:16:04, with Naomi Hansen pipped, relegated to third only nine seconds behind.

Meanwhile there is a fascinating inter-category battle lining up with two stages to go, as Alice Springs local and ICME six-timer, Vintage (50-59) rider Paul Darvodelsky, leads his younger contemporary and friend in Gary Harwood, who is racing in the Veteran’s (40-49) category. Both riders won their respective divisions in the time trial and lead their categories overall with time to spare, but the difference between them is barely two minutes, the elder Darvodelsky currently holding bragging rights.

“I make it that I’m about 1min 54secs ahead of Gary," says Paul, who confirms there is a lot of sledging between the two. “He’s actually staying in my house and has been for a while as he’s doing some work on it as a carpenter!" says Paul. “So yes, I let him know about it."

The racing between the pair should get even tighter, with Paul nominating tonight’s stage as one where Gary will likely find some time on him.

“He’s the better technical rider, for sure, and he’s in killer form, so I think he’s going to take a couple of minutes off me tonight."

Paul is the local, however, and agrees that intimate course knowledge plays a big role in being able to ride smarter and faster. Indeed, Paul is the go-to guru for the likes of overall leader, Andy Blair, when it comes to course intelligence.

“It’s a tough course and you have to work hard to avoid mechanicals. I’m lucky not to have had any yet. You gotta ride smart, and ride smoothly if you want to get around in good time and that’s what I tell everyone."

While Paul is cautious about chances of maintaining his lead over Gary in tonight’s penultimate stage, he also looks forward to the final hit-out on Friday. “I think Stage Seven will be the best ride of the event," says Paul.

There is also a tight race for category honours in the Women’s Veterans category, Juliet Plumb sitting on a cumulative time of 9:03:14, with Sophie Wood a scant 23 seconds behind with two stages to go, including tonight’s challenging night ride.

Last year it was this stage that witnessed all the drama as riders battled the single track in pitch black, their vision restricted to the ball of light streaming from helmet and handlebar headlights. Crashes and finish line disagreements about rider etiquette marred last year’s night ride...will more riders be whisked away to the dark side this year?

All will be revealed as Stage Six rolls into the dusty Alice Springs night from 6.30pm this evening.

MENS’S STAGE FIVE

1. Andrew BLAIR, 00:59:42

2. Ben HOGARTH, 01:01:22

3. Nick BOTH, 01:02:09

WOMEN’S STAGE FIVE

1. Melissa ANSET, 01:12:07

2. Sarah HOLMES, 01:16:04

3. Naomi HANSEN, 01:16:13

OVERALL STANDINGS MEN

1. Andrew BLAIR, 7:25:25

2. Ben HOGARTH, 7:44:33

3. Chris HANSEN, 7:51:58

OVERALL STANDINGS WOMEN

1. Melissa ANSET, 8:57:47

2. Naomi HANSEN, 9:17:02

3. Terri RHODES, 9:35:27

Stages ahead:

Day 04: 23km night race

Day 05: 40km

More details at www.ICME.com.au

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