Sarah Hammond has again won the Race to the Rock after slogging her way 3,010 kilometres across the remote Australian outback at an unrelenting pace.
It’s the second year running that Hammond, the sole female rider in the race, has won the self-supported ultra-endurance event to Uluru. This year she took 11 days and around 8 hours to work her way from Albany in Western Australia right into the heart of central Australia. It was a course that traversed tight overgrown mountain bike trails and sandy roads with gaps of hundreds of kilometres between supplies.
Hammond has been out the front the majority of the race, but there were times in the last couple of days when it looked like second placed rider Kevin Benkenstein may be challenging her lead, reeling her in to within 30 kilometres. But Hammond’s unceasing ability to just keep going, particularly when the end is in sight, saw her pull the gap right back out again. By the time she reached the finish, Benkenstein was nearly 200 kilometres behind.
Hammond, a relatively recent convert to the sport, made the ultra-endurance community stand up and take notice when she placed six in her first race, the 7,000 kilometre 2016 Trans Am. Then she went on to win the first Race to the Rock just months later.
The tight racing at the end made it a very different race to last year’s edition. Hammond was the only rider to finish that race via the 2,300 kilometre course, which in 2016 started in Adelaide. Adding to the already tough terrain unseasonably wet conditions flooded roads in some parts and turned other tracks into brutal-to-move-through quagmires.
This year, in contrast it looks like there could be a number of finishers, with experienced South African rider Benkenstein likely to reach Uluru within a day. So may chief instigator Jesse Carlsson, who set a scorching pace up Western Australia on the Munda Biddi trail and continued it into the goldfields region and the remote centre.
Carlsson unintentionally gave the rest of the field a 600 kilometre lead, after an all important piece of equipment for self-supported racing, the dynamo hub, was damaged on the flight over. Then a replacement being couriered over didn’t make it over in time so 2015 Trans Am winner, Carlsson, missed the start by 2 days and 6 hours.
Though, he’s made up plenty of that lost ground and while he may not finish first, he will undoubtedly be the quickest over the course. The 2015 Trans Am winner is currently in third place less than 100 kilometres behind Benkenstein.