The Ingkerreke Commercial Enduro (ICME) is a mountain bike race in Alice Springs that has 7 stages over 5 days. This was my first time that I had done the race. Here is a recap of my experience.
Overall Result: 6th
Overall Time: 10hr 10min 27sec
Winning Time: 9hr 44min 27sec
Shiny bike, clean race number, clean helmet and shoes; Race ready!
Stage 1: 40km
Time: 1hr 33min 39sec
Overall Standing: 9th
The first day involved two stages, one in the morning that was approximately 40km long and a short explosive hill climb in the afternoon up ANZAC Hill (300m long). In the morning we rolled out through town under police control, where we eventually hit the fire road before the KOM section, where there was $200 up for grabs. Of course this meant the pace was on from the ‘get go’, with Andy Blair convincingly getting the KOM as he led the bunch into the single track. I got tailed off the back over this climb, and formed a group with 2 other riders inside the top 10. We stayed this way through the single track, working together until we hit the final technical climb. I was third wheel going into this climb, but quickly moved up to 2nd wheel as the lead rider came unstuck and was forced to run up the first part of the climb. I crested the climb still in second wheel as we rolled down into the velodrome, and unable to get around the 8th place rider.
Stage 2: 300m Hill Climb ANZAC Hill
Overall Standing: 9th
The start time for the hill climb was in reverse to the morning’s results, which meant that I was one of the last starters at 6 0’clock. This meant that I had plenty of rest between the 2 stages and that there were plenty of people out eager to see the top guys ascend the hill in under 50sec. The climb was all tar and had three gradual turns in it, with the gradient getting steeper at the 1st and 2nd turns before maxing out just before the final turn. With such a short climb, it meant jamming it from the get go, and just after the second corner things just became a blur, with cow bells ringing, music pumping and the crowd yelling in your ear as you redlined up the hill…….. AWESOME!!! I crossed the line in 54sec on my Superfly 100, unchanged from the morning’s stage, still with the mtb tyres on. Andy Blair took the stage win again in a flying 44sec, with his bike kitted out in slicks and looking fast, just ahead of Ben Hogarth.
Stage 3: 49km
Time: 2hr 11min 43sec
Overall Standing: 7th
Stage 3 was set to be another day loaded with awesome single track that we had been told was some of the best in the red centre. With this in mind I was keen to get in a good position along the fire road so that I would be following some of the fast wheels through the technical single track. This worked well for me and I hit the trails with the lead group following Tim Bennett and James Downing. Wow, following these two was a lesson in itself as they were nailing it through the technical sections, and then I would have to haul ar#e up the climbs to get back on their wheels. This lasted for about 15km before they gapped me and I rode the rest of the stage solo. However this wasn’t so lonely with the snaking single track, I would rarely go 5mins without seeing them at some point. Like a donkey and the carrot, they were tantalisingly close but it stayed this way to the finish and I couldn’t catch them. It turned into a day of mechanicals for many people including race leader Andy Blair, but still none for me. Cheering! With no more racing for the day, it was time to put the feet up, after a dip in the pool back where we were staying, and try to recover for tomorrow’s long day.
Stage 4: 90km
Time: Sub 3hr
Place: lead group
Overall Standing: 6th
Stage 4 started in the remote aboriginal community of Santa Teresa about an hour’s drive from Alice Springs. So up at 4.45am, yes am, to grab a quick bite to eat and then jump on the bus to Santa Teresa for race start. The community was a bit of an eye opener, but all the residents were all out to see 200+ crazy mountain bikers start the 90km day. The long stage was relatively flat, so I was looking to stay in the fast group and hope to put some pressure on the guys higher up in GC then I was, and of course put some time into them. This was working perfectly when we hit the first feed station, when I was in the lead group of 9 riders following some pile ups earlier on that helped split the field up. These were mostly caused by riders suddenly hitting some lose patches of sand while in the large bunch of riders.
Following the first feed station, Ben Hogarth was one of the guys higher up in GC than me and he was starting to struggle with cramps. Another 5kms and he was off the back and nowhere to be seen. We then hit then hit the long drag on the main dirt road where Chris Hanson suffered a flat tire and he too disappeared from the group. Perfect, two guys higher up in GC had disappeared from the group and I was feeling good. The pace started to increase as we were all keen to put some serious time into these guys. We continued this way until the final fence jump about 10km before the finish where Andy Blair and Shaun Lewis got over quickly with half the group as Michael Crosbie, James Downing and myself were slightly slower. With Crosbie sitting 3rd overall, Lewy and Andy turned it on as Crosbie tried to drag us back on. He got within 50m before he started to die, and with James Downing really hurting I jumped on the front. I told him I had about a good minute effort before I would blow. I got within 20m of the group before I started to really suffer. Crosbie jumped across to the group and within seconds the pace slowed, as James Downing dragged me back on to the group. We came across a crazy horse and its rider as the pace was starting to increase again, which we had to stop for. After this it was on as we were in the final 5km as I started to suffer from my earlier effort and was starting to get dagged off the back when suddenly they all sat up and slowed right down. We had done 92km in 2hr 50min but the finish line was nowhere to be seen. After a phone call to the race director we rolled over the finish line after meeting the lead women’s group who also got lost. It turned out that an unknown individual had removed the final arrow, and the stage was effectively neutralised as we only received a couple of minute’s time bonus. However full credit to race directors for coming to a decision within hours of the stage finishing.
Stage 5: 23km Time Trial
Time: 51min 7sec
Overall Standing: 6th
Stage 4 was a time trial around the exact course that we were riding later that night in the night stage. The start list was in reverse order of the overall placing’s, meaning a healthy sleep in with a start time of 10.30am. I wanted to go out hard and hope to catch Ben Mather in front of me and put some time into Ben Hogarth thinking that he would still be struggling following yesterday’s disaster for him. This didn’t happen at all as Mather was well untruly charging and ended up getting in the top 5 for this stage, and when I turned around at about the 15km mark and saw Ben Hogarth charging up the road to me, I almost fell off. He had well untruly recovered as I only managed to hold his wheel for about 2km before he gapped me. Tim Bennett caught me shortly after and sat on until the finish straight where he sprinted past in the final 500m.
Stage 6: 23km night race
Time: 52min 26sec
Overall Standing: 6th
Following the mornings stage, I was feeling a little tired and was hoping to put a solid ride in without going crazy as I knew that I couldn’t really make up too much time overall but I could easily lose a lot of places with a crash or mechanical. I was in the lead group for the first 10km before I was dropped and then formed a group of 3 at the 15km mark with Craig Metcalf and James Downing. We stayed this way until the finish line, with none of the above disasters happening to any of us and everyone having a good time.
Stage 7: 42km
Time: 1hr 40min 6sec
Overall Standing: 6th
This was the most enjoyable stage out of the whole week with really technical single track, almost similar to what I would imagine the riding would be like over in Utah in America. We rolled out of the Chifley resort, with attacks happening all around. I tried to break away with Ben Mather and Kyle Ward at the start but Andy Blair and the other guys didn’t seem to happy for this to happen and quickly reeled us back in. Just before we hit the single track, the lead bunch split on the technical climb, with myself being one of those that got dropped. Finally the week had caught up to me and I struggled my way through the last stage. I got caught by Ben Mather and Craig Metcalf after 15km, and was happy to have some company but was hoping that Ben wasn’t in a mood for dishing out pain. But of course he was, as he decided to give me and Craig a lesson in how to hold a wheel at the end of a race. Craig was dropped with about 10km to go, which only spured Ben on even further as he turned the pace up another notch. Knowing that he was only 2mins behind me on GC, I didn’t want to let him go. I held his wheel until the finish line, crossing the line completely stuffed.
One of the best weeks I have ever had on my MTB and would love to come back next year if I had the opportunity. However I need to thank some people which helped me this week happen for me. David Paradice from Paradice Investments, Tim and Louise and the rest of the crew at Ride Shop in Canberra, all the guys out at Trek for their ongoing support and of course Mum and Dad for helping me out during the week. If anyone is thinking of doing this race then you won’t regret coming, and it is a well organised event with shuttles to and from the airport and to any remote stages, so get to it for next time people.