Finke. The name itself conjures up nerves, excitement, adrenaline, and fear all rolled in one.
Though this is my second campaign, I have no less trepidation at the idea of smashing myself and my bike through the vast Northern Territory Desert for the Queens Birthday weekend, than the first time I completed this iconic race in 2013. Regardless, I wouldn't be anywhere else.
As the very first off road race in my life that I entered, the Finke holds a special place in my heart. Originally a tale of achievement above and beyond my expected physical capabilities, it served as a rough springboard for me to realise a childhood dream to race motorbikes.
My prep for the 40th anniversary Tatts Finke Desert Race has been diverse. The start of this year’s race season saw me follow the Enduro-X Nationals Championship, which, to say the least, was amazing. However, Enduro-X is not so much of a training ground for Finke by any stretch of the imagination!
Melissa competing at the Enduro-X Nationals earlier this year. Photo credit: Troy Pears.
Following this there were several Queensland Enduro rounds, of which one has quite the reputation for pressing endurance capabilities. Nothing like a Mount Perry 2 Day to make you wonder why you got out of bed that morning.
Besides this, I have been working hard at getting speed and endurance in environments that are very un-desert like. I live on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. We have nothing like the Finke track near here.
My average training week includes 2-3 days on the bike either on a sand MX track, or trying to find sand whoops up gnarly creek beds and hill climbs in the forest. I know you think there aren't any, but you haven't been up every creek bed yet have you?
Seriously though, I've put a lot of work into my more extreme Enduro training with a view towards the A4DE in Tasmania later in the year, so I simply cannot stay away from that side of riding for too long. Too much fun to be had trying to beat my trail riding buddies through the bush anyway.
As any seasoned rider will state, fitness is critical for a race like Finke. For me however, I have to work with a serious pre-existing permanent injury which requires specialised training. Luckily, I have had exceptional support this year from local personal trainer, Corey Brough at Defined Fitness.
Corey has taken a tailored approach (from a riders perspective) to supervising a training program pushing for the best results I can achieve prior to the race. Along with 2-3 P.T sessions a week, I take time out to either clock up a 100k road cycle, or challenge myself to a 40k round trip up a local soul destroying mountain road. The kind where you wonder what on earth you were thinking, at exactly ''you have got to be kidding me'' gradient percent.
Combined with physical training, diet has to be prioritised, and, let’s not forget, I know what it feels like to spend years trying to (literally) get back on my feet after surgeons spent months and countless operations piecing me back together. Keeping a close eye on my mental state is also critical.
Melissa says fitness is critical to contend in Finke, and has worked hard to keep herself in top shape.
Now for the coolest part of my race prep. The Bike. I have opted to stick to an updated version of the Husqvarna TE 250 2 stroke I have raced for the
last year. Light, powerful, and a whole lot of fun. Yes, she's going to need to be on the pipe the whole way, but that's all part of the crazy which makes this race awesome!
As I write this, my Finke bike is already locked up in Alice Springs waiting for me to fly out on May 29th for 5 days testing prior to the big race. Usually I drive to my races in my super flash little van with excellent sleeping quarters called a swag. However balancing time away from the business with the race budget can be tricky, so it worked out cheaper to work a few more days rather than drive.
While I am not by any means useless when it comes to maintaining the mechanical side of racing, one thing that has made everything so much easier is having MPE Suspension on hand. The suspension set up for me is always spot on, there are no sleazy bike dealer issues (which is a pet hate of mine). Paul, Allen, and James are always handy for last minute panic mechanical advice and I just love how patient poor Megan is with my nine thousand part order requests, changes, and
Updates. Thank guys!
There's no doubt about it. I am so keen to get out there again and cannot wait to tell you all about it when hopefully I have a second Finke finish on my racing resume. Maybe I'll even have a better time than my 2013 results!
In summary, Bike set up:
– MPE custom suspension
– Force Accessories Radiator Guards
– Desert King StegPegz
– Clake One Light Clutch
– Zero MX Graphics
– Maxxis Desert Tyres
– Michelin UHD rear tube
– Linswood Front Mousse
– Funnelweb Air Filters
– FMF Expansion Chamber
Personal Training Prep
– P.T with Defined Fitness 2-3 x weekly
– Endurance based road cycles 1 x week
– 2-3 on the bike days / week
– Maintain suitable diet
– Nutritional supplements by Mass Nutrition Kawana / Mooloolaba
Follow Melissa’s progress on her Facebook page