Former Maitland woman Ellyse O'Connor conquers Finke Desert Race

Maitland can lay claim to the Queen as well as the King of the Desert after Ellyse O’Connor claimed the inaugural women’s title at the Finke Desert Race.

O’Connor celebrated with her childhood hero Toby Price, who claimed his sixth King of the Desert crown at Alice Springs on the weekend.

“I used to ride with him back when I was younger. I grew up idolising him I guess,” said O’Connor, 29,  who moved to Queensland in 2013 to work in the gas industry.

”I caught up with him before the race and got a photo and joked that we were King and Queen of the Desert.

“On the presentation night I went up to him and asked if we could get a legitimate King and Queen photo. It was awesome.”

O’Connor, who is now a motocross coach and owns a motorcycle shop in Yeppoon with her partner Aaron, said completing Finke was by far one of the toughest things she had ever done and she was looking forward to defending her title.

“This is the first year they’ve had a women’s trophy. There were 15 women this year. A few of the girls didn’t make the cut off on the first day so there were about nine or 10 on the way home,” she said.

“I was 291st out of more than 650 riders. I was hoping to go top 200 but I had a few crashes on the way home and there was pretty much zero visibility the entire way.

“I qualified really bad, unfortunately, which put me right back in the field. I made up about 150 positions on the first day, which put me in a not too bad spot for the second day. But a few minor crashes cost me a fair bit of time.

“I am pretty stoked with how I went for my first time, that’s for sure.

“When I had 50km to go I thought I never want to see this place again. I was that exhausted, but as soon as I finished  and on the drive home I was already planning next year. I was thinking about the things I had done wrong and what I could do to do better.

“They reckon it’s addictive and I think it is.

“My hands are that blistered and my body is so sore, but I can’t wait to go back.”