The first challenge of Paluma Push morning was getting the jumpers off. At -3C at Hidden Valley on Sunday, it was thankfully a little warmer at Paluma Village where the proceedings for the 650-rider strong race powered-off. Hours later a total of 575 somewhat warmer riders crossed the finish line before the cut-off time. You may have heard, but this year’s Push sold out within four days, making it one of the country’s most popular mountain biking races. And you can see why.
After pedalling either 45km or 65km (choose your own adventure. For the record, it was my second year in the 45km recreational course) through a mix of gravel roads, cattle country, creek crossings and heritage-listed rainforest — all with their fair share of leg-sapping climbs — nothing beats that feeling of crossing the finish line (which, a little sadistically, is also uphill). People are packed from the last turn all the way to the two FINISH signs cheering you home like a returning hero; just as your cramping legs manage to battle their way through those last few pedal turns.
The beauty of the Push is the variety of people it draws. You have the families like Daniel Horne and his sons — who found it an emotional experience being able to do the iconic race with his 11 and 12-year-old — to the likes of Triple R winner Jeff Rubach, triple solo 24-hour world champion Jess Douglas and National Road Series leader Ruth Corset.
While being no stranger to the competitive cycling circuit, this year was Ruth’s second Paluma Push after only discovering mountain biking a few years ago. Harnessing the recent tips she has learnt from Jess Douglas while Jess and husband Norm have been in Townsville delivering mountain biking skills courses, the Townsville-based road champ was able to take out the endurance mountain biking legend 3:01:44 vs 3:16:20 to claim outright female winner. Jasmine McMillian placed in-between them at 3:16:13.
It was also an exciting race for the Rubach brothers — Jeff and Dan — with Jeff claiming the outright men’s category 2:35:17; just two seconds ahead of his twin brother who tailed him most of the way.
While this was a thrill to watch; equally as thrilling was seeing the recreational course riders crossing the line — husbands and wives, mums and sons, siblings and groups of friends who’d pledged to stay together for the whole race. It’s a memory they’ll treasure forever…once the legs start to recover.
Thankfully, there were no major injuries this year to people; although you could argue differently when it came to the bikes, with everything from punctures and broken chains to snapped frames and handlebars.
Congratulations to Rockwheelers Mountain Biking Club and their volunteers for putting on a professionally seamless event and well-done to Hidden Valley Cabins who go out of their way to provide the perfect venue each year.
For the full list of results see here. Well done to everyone who took part.
Here are some photos we snapped before and after the race, but check-out Reflex Photography for lots more (and much better quality) images of the finish line and presentations.