Gympie trio survives Desert Race
THE annual Tattersall’s Finke Desert Race sets the standard as far as offroad endurance motorbike riding goes and Gympie trio Darren Sorensen, Peter Baulch and Matt Vickery have survived the experience.
The 460 kilometre, two day offroad race was held last month over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.
Joined by nearly 500 eager competitors, the Gympie three embarked on an epic test of endurance from Alice Springs to the small Aputula (Finke) community.
The terrain was tough and unforgiving and the very real risks of the race were an ever-present thought in the back of the minds of all participants.
As the largest offroad desert race in the southern hemisphere, and one of the world’s biggest, it packs a serious punch.
Baulch, 50, accepted the challenge for the third time while his mates, Sorensen and Vickery, were first-timers.
The three work together and Baulch encouraged his mates to give it a go after his son Cameron decided to give the event a miss this year.
Baulch didn’t match his last effort in the big race, timing out and missing out on posting a final position.
He missed a final fuel stop along the course and ran out of juice.
“I was just in the groove and focused on the course and just missed it,” Baulch said.
“A few other riders said it was hard to see so that didn’t make it any easier.”
Meanwhile, Sorensen and Vickery posted respectable finishes for their maiden outings.
Vickery finished 97 out of 120 in his class while overall he crossed the finish line in 361st position.
Sorensen went slightly better, placing 294th overall and 49th from a field of 87 in his class.
A reflective Sorensen said his result could’ve been better had he taken a few more risks.
“It was my first time and I’m happy with the result,” he said.
“I could have done better but I didn’t have the coconuts to push harder.”
Vickery said he “had the bug” after receiving his first taste of the event.
“It was a massive induction to the race but I definitely would like to do it again,” he said.
Remarkably, Vickery used the event to make his first ever debut on a bike in an offroad challenge.
“It was brutal and I was a bit intimidated at the start,” he said.
“But you don’t spend all the money to compete to be half-hearted about it.”
The trio was taken by surprise upon arriving to discover the course had been changed from last year.
Like all race entrants, they scrambled to get their head around the new challenge.
“There was a whole new 40 kilometre section that was just bull dust,” Baulch said.
The new section of the course was doused with water by race organisers but all efforts to settle the track proved futile.
“Visibility was horrible,” Vickery said. “At times you couldn’t see your own hand in front of your face.”
A year’s worth of planning went into the adventure of a lifetime and all three adopted different approaches to training.
Baulch focused on cardio and fitness while Vickery stayed in shape but channelled a large portion of his energy into strength training. Both argued their approaches worked well for them.
Sorensen, meanwhile, took the more attractive option, employing a minimalist approach to training yet still finding the results.
If there was any doubt over the risks posed by the race, they were dismissed during the practice run on the course.
Broken legs and a broken neck, together with a punctured lung, were some of the injuries sustained by competitors – and that was before the starter’s gun even fired.
No matter the results, returning home to family in one piece without a stay in hospital makes all three dare-devils winners in their families’ eyes.