At 6am on Saturday morning roughly 20 riders got on their bikes and rode north-east out of Adelaide. In doing so they began the inaugural Race to the Rock, a solo, unsupported race from the South Australian capital all the way to Uluru, that famous sandstone rock in Australia’s Red Centre.
In all the journey is 2,310km long and includes the entirety of The Mawson Trail — a 900km off-road route starting in Adelaide — and much of the Oodnadatta Track — a sandy, unsealed road through the Australian Outback. Just finishing the race is hard enough, and that’s without considering the environmental conditions and the challenges posed by the terrain.
With long stretches between towns — several hundred kilometres at some points — carrying enough food and water is of the utmost importance. And with the overwhelming majority of the race taking part on unsealed desert roads, progress can be slow going, particularly if it rains.
At the time of writing, the riders are roughly 55 hours into their journey and a clear leader has already emerged. Race to the Rock founder, former Tour Divide runner-up and Trans Am winner Jesse Carlsson has blasted away from the rest of the field and is currently winding his way through the Flinders Ranges, just near the stunning Wilpena Pound.
Despite the fact it rained for much of day 1, Carlsson has already covered more than 830km (>350km a day) while his nearest rivals — Justin Matthews and Sarah Hammond — are more than 130km behind. Carlsson will likely reach the end of the Mawson Trail in the next few hours before heading north west into the Outback proper.
While Jesse’s lead is considerable, there is a still a long way to go. There’s also the possibility that some sections of the route will be closed due to rain. This will force riders to wait until the roads re-open, changing the dynamics of the race considerably.
While the riders are all out there battling the race at their own pace and on their own terms, they aren’t entirely alone. Videographer Anthony Gordon is following the race in the CyclingTips Holden Colorado, creating daily videos that take you inside the race.
Here are the riders on the startline early on Saturday morning:
Here are some of the highlights from the wet and miserable opening day:
And here some of the highlights of day 2, as Jesse Carlsson continued to build his lead:
To stay up to date on the Race to the Rock, be sure to check out the event hub page at the CyclingTips VeloClub forums. And to follow the riders’ progress live, check out the GPS tracking over at MAProgress.