Race to the Rock: Hammond plays leading lady again

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Australian endurance cyclist Sarah Hammond is at it again. Just a couple of months after stepping off the bike at the Trans Am, where she became the first female leader of the 7,080 kilometre race across America, the 36 year old has taken the lead on day four of the Race to the Rock.

The sole female rider in the 2,310 kilometre race from Adelaide to Uluru passed race organiser Jesse Carlsson mid-afternoon, after he sadly had to pull out of the race injured.

Carlsson, who is a former Trans Am winner and runner up in the Tour Divide, always looked to be the man to beat in the charge through Australia’s outback but after his crash it was late-entrant Hammond who again surprised by hitting the front.

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Hammond passed her friend and Trans Am mentor, Carlsson, at Leigh Creek and by 4:30pm AEST on Tuesday was at the 1,045 kilometre mark. Belgian rider Gunther Desmedt was her nearest rival at around 80 kilometres back, as he had not long passed experienced dirt rider 40-year-old Justin Matthews while he was resting.

Experience but new territory

Hammond only decided to enter the race just two weeks ago, having only half jokingly said she couldn’t let the race go ahead without at least one women riding in it.

She was more into personal challenges like Everesting than racing until she discovered self-supported bikepacking races. The Trans Am was her first race and she went out hard but paid the price, slipping back to sixth by the end. This time, though, the distance is shorter and she has some experience managing the trials, effort and mental battles of the extreme endurance challenge.

“It could go really well — we could finish it in under ten days — or we could get bunkered down from the weather and I could still be out there two weeks from now,” said Hammond before she started.

While some of the issues surrounding the race will be more familiar after the Trans Am, this ride through the remote Australian outback has thrown up a new test as she’s used to riding on the road. The terrain on the Race to the Rock, which follows the gruelling Mawson’s Trail and the remote Oodnadatta Track, means she’s traded her Trans Am steed of the Curve Belgie for an Uprock mountain bike, so it has been a rapid and testing introduction to the world of fat tyres.

Wet weather hasn’t exactly made it an easy introduction either and water on the roads ahead means closures could be an issue to grapple with. The warm days, have also given way to cold nights and the impact of the cold on sleep meant she had some ground to make up yesterday.

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.

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