Hillite takes on Northern Territory
Tuesday, 24th June, 2014
By Ethan James
Taking on the Finke Desert Race is not for the faint of heart.
Riders and drivers must fight a combination of dust, rugged terrain and mechanical failures on the 460 kilometre route from Alice Springs to the small Aputula community.
Broken Hill rider Sam Edwards was one of the 400-plus who took on the two-day challenge in the second weekend of July.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life,” he told the BDT.
But Edwards wasn’t content with simply battling away in his debut ride - he wanted to thrive.
He made himself the pre-race goal of being in the top fifty and remarkably managed to pull it off.
On his trusty Honda CRF 450X bike, Edwards finished the race in 37th position overall and second in his class in an overall time of five hours, 15 minutes and 41 seconds.
“Apparently that makes me the fastest from Broken Hill to ever complete the event which is nice,” he said.
“I’m just stoked with how everything went.”
Having been told tales about the Finke by previous riders and his dad, who ran the event in 1990, Edwards had a fair idea about what to expect.
But that still didn’t quite prepare him for when it hit.
“The dust was honestly scary,” he said.
“The whole thing was just physically and mentally draining.
“Fortunately after my strong position in the prologue I wasn’t too far back, so there weren’t that many in front of me kicking up dust.”
As expected, there were plenty who came off their bikes or experienced malfunctions.
Edwards experienced his share of drama just after the only ‘pit stop’ at the halfway mark of day one.
After topping up his bike with fuel, he set out for the final checkpoint of the day before disaster struck.
“About 5-10 kilometres after the point where we stopped I got a flat tyre.”
“But due to times and everything you’re not going to turn back.
“I ended up riding the remaining distance, which was about 100kms, on a flat tyre.
“It turns out there was a 50 cent-sized hole.
“My old man had to drive back to get the tyre in the middle of the night so that we were right to go for the second day.
“I couldn’t have done it without him and the help from the rest of my team.”
After completing day one, Edwards, along with more than 2000 other riders and support crew, set up camp at the remote Aputula community.
That in itself was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“All the people descend on this tiny little community basically in the middle of nowhere.
“Everyone carried their own gear so everyone was pretty self sufficient but you were basically a matchstick amongst the crowd though.”
When the sun rose for day two, Edwards awoke with an equally bright outlook.
“At the starting line I picked out the bloke I had to get past to get from third to second spot and set my sights on him,” Edwards said.
And as they say, the rest is history.
Aside from results, riders from all across the country experienced a unique camaraderie.
Edwards said that the isolation of the course brought local, national and international riders back to the same level.
“You have no choice but to look out for each other,” he explains.
Whether he has enough in the tank for a shot at next year’s race remains to be seen.
“Next year? We’ll see how we go,” he answered.
Other Silver City riders to finish the event were Keith Stanford (77th overall) and Nathan Johnston (244th overall).