Ultra-marathon cyclist Sacha Dowell has taken out second place in her Race from the Rocks, having completed the 2000km offroad race in a little over nine days as the only female rider who made it to the finish line.
Five riders have so far pipped the post, with three still in the game after the majority of starting cyclists dropped out of the punishing ride.
With the starting pistol piercing the early, Saturday morning stillness of the Sydney Harbour at 6.22am on September 3, Sacha said she rode through the first night in a mammoth, 340km push and that lasted for nearly 36 hours without sleep.
“I was surprised on the first night, I thought I would just push through and take the advantage to get near the front,” Sacha said.
“I thought other people would be doing the same thing. It was quite funny because there was so much mud and rain that I could see the tyre tracks in front of me.
“By the time Saturday night came around a bunch of riders stopped for an extended dinner in Gosford and I just grabbed a pie and carried on.
“All of a sudden there were only six tracks in front of me, then it went down to three and then at some point later there were no tracks ahead of me.
“It wasn’t until about midday the next day another rider caught up.”
From there, a pack of four riders maintained the lead, weathering muddy conditions in a leapfrog battle for pole position.
“We all became friends when we got stuck at the Euabalong Pub because of flooding and road closures,” Sacha said.
“Initially I was just planning on getting a takeaway pizza. It was raining and the roads were turning to mud and I was still determined to carry on.
“It was already about 9pm and the locals thought I was nuts. Then I found out the road was officially closed so we had to find a different route.
“We chose a slightly longer route to keep off the main highway and got back on from Mildura.”
While many people may find it difficult to understand the motivation for such a challenging event, Sacha said she finds the feeling of achievement and satisfaction from finishing is, “second to none.”
“If everybody who is still out there now makes it to the finish line, that will mean only eight people made it out of the 34 who signed up,” she said.
“People struggle with the mental side of things and it was a tough course, so that feeling is amazing, I love it.
“The simplicity of riding, only worrying that you have enough food and water and keeping on going – that feeling of, “I can do something like this,” for me, that makes it.
“The community as well, you get so much support, everyone is so amazingly friendly.”
One of those supporters is member of the Armadale Cycling Association, Jeff Alp, who regularly rides with Sacha and has been keenly watching her Race from the Rock.
“What she does is extraordinary, I was following her the whole time and she created the pace,” Jeff said.
“I don’t know if there’s another female competitor who could ride against her, you can’t say enough about her.”
While Sacha’s superhuman feat won’t earn her a monetary reward, she used the ride to campaign for Free the Bears, a Perth-based charity that rescues bears in Southeast Asia.
So far she has outpaced her fundraising goal of $2000 and is still accepting donations, which can be made at givenow.com.au/cr/sachasraceforthebears.