When we hit the bottom of Powerline, I knew Howard [Grotts, eventual race winner] was riding really strong – and he’s won this race twice and this is his terrain – so I knew he was going to go for it. I thought, how am I going to play this? What’s my move? [laughs]. I set tempo at the bottom, going at what I thought I could do, and I thought maybe it’ll be strong enough that it’ll throw him that he actually thinks I’ve got more in the tank when I don’t. [laughs]. We dropped the Colombian rider [Luis Mejia] and it was just the two of us when we hit the really steep section. Howard came through – it wasn’t even an attack – and I saw that tempo and I was just like, that’s just too much. I can’t. I got on the wheel but on one steep section he got out the seat and did that little acceleration and I couldn’t do it.
I was pretty cross eyed towards the top, and I had a little slip of the front wheel and jumped off. As soon as I was running I realised I was probably going faster. I should have just put some trainers on and hoofed it up this sucker. I would have taken five minutes out of these guys.
I was watching my clock: 20 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, and I held him there for a long time. But in the twisty section I just lost him. As soon as I didn’t have that carrot there, I had a bit of a mental lapse. It was strange because there was no spectators, you were just alone in the woods, really suffering up this last climb. And that was it. All of a sudden it was two minutes and I wasn’t coming back. I sort of felt like I was on my own ride there for twenty minutes. And suddenly I looked back and saw two guys coming up and I thought, ‘Oh, now we’ve got a race,’ because someone would miss out on the podium.
Quinn [Simmons, eventual second place finisher] passed me, and I was like, ciao man. He didn’t even look like he was in the same race. I’d caught the Colombian, so I was sitting in fifth, and I was thinking ‘Oh man, I’m gonna get on the mountain bike podium.’ And then I thought if Quinn caught me, for sure Todd Wells is gonna be right behind me. Your heroes are always so big in your head. And so the ghost of Todd Wells chased me all the way to the line [Wells finished in eighth, two minutes behind Alex].