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XPD Expedition Race Cairns - Credit: James Pitman

XPD sets scene for Townsville adventure

In August next year the toughest multi-day adventure race in Australia will be staged in Townsville and surrounds, bringing top adventure athletes from all over the world for 700km over 10 days of hard-core unassisted racing. With huge benefits expected for our city as hundreds converge for the race; we found out what XPD racers will be signing up for as they battle through our diverse terrain.

“You don’t have to be the fittest or fastest guy getting around, but you need to be mentally strong and in good shape because a niggle is like a broken leg in an XPD race” – Sam Stedman

Sam Stedman and his team map out the best route.

There are a few fundamentals about the expedition-length adventure race that make it so challenging. Needing to kayak, mountain bike and trek for up to 10 days; success comes from being the team-of-four to do it the fastest (the Adventure Racing World Championship-winning team just completed the race in Ecuador in 111 hours) – this means deciding how much or little sleep to have, digging deep for mental strength and working together with teammates solidly. The course is not revealed until 24 hours before the start time and the race is completely unassisted – the gear and food you packed beforehand is all you have access to, no matter what happens in the wilderness.

XPD in Tasmania in 2011 - Linda Davis and Sam Stedman

Linda Davis and Sam Stedman battle the cold and wet in XPD Tasmania in 2011

“XPD appeals to people who like to push themselves and challenge their limits,” explains XPD race director and founder Craig Bycroft who launched the first XPD in 2002 in NSW – a 48-hour race back then. “We have a wide range of people taking part who see it as a massive life challenge – they are generally people who love being outdoors. There’s a real mixture of elite and novice on the same course: Some are racing and pushing hard, while others are happy to be sharing the experience with three of their good mates and making it to the finish line.”

XPD Expedition Race Cairns - Credit: James Pitman

Trekking along at XPD Cairns – Credit: James Pitman

While registrations officially open for the momentous challenge tomorrow (Friday, November 28), a few international teams have already thrown their hats in the ring including number six Adventure Racing world-ranked ‘Team Raidlight’ from France (there’s a local connection with the Raidlight Australian distributor being based in Townsville and hosting the team); Merrell Adventure Addicts from South Africa, plus there’s a Brazilian team, Dutch Team and a few from New Zealand. But what about our local multisport athletes?

Townsville’s premier multisport racer Sam Stedman looks likely to register, making it his third XPD race, but is still trying to pull the right team together. He says, being set in Townsville, the event has certainly got the multisport community’s tongues wagging about who could take-on the potentially once-in-a-lifetime test.

XPD Expedition Race Cairns - Credit: James Pitman

One of the unexpected extras of adventure racing at XPD Cairns – Credit: James Pitman

“XPD is definitely the hardest multi-day adventure race in Australia,” tells Sam who recently returned from a three-day staged race in China. “You are looking for people with experience and XPD needs to be their number one goal in 2015. One hundred per cent effort is needed to just get to the start line: You need four people who are fit and share the same mental strength and mindset.

XPD racing in Tasmania in 2011- Sam Stedman with Linda Davis, Adrian Garnett, David Sterritt

Adrian Garnett stops to check the map in XPD Tasmania with Linda Davis, Sam Stedman and David Sterritt

“You don’t have to be the fittest or fastest guy getting around, but you need to be mentally strong and in good shape because a niggle is like a broken leg in an XPD race. It’s a real test of endurance and the challenge is who can keep their marbles the longest. You are heavily relying on the four people around you and there have been people who haven’t finished because they’ve lost it with their teammates.”

XPD Whitsunday - Credit: Wouter Kingma

Going on an underwater adventure at XPD Whitsundays – Credit: Wouter Kingma

Sam says local athletes would definitely have an advantage in the race. Not so much in having been to some of the potential locations – which could be Magnetic Island, Paluma, Hinchinbrook, Wallaman Falls, The Burdekin and Charters Towers – but more in the event preparation.

“The true advantage is being able to sleep in your own bed and having the convenience of being at home,” reveals Sam. “The race course gets announced 24 hours before it starts, so if it turns out that you need extra gear, you have a better chance of sourcing it when you’re at home. It’s just all those little things like having access to bigger areas for map planning, plus you don’t have the travel dramas, like the prospect of losing gear, facing delays etc.”

XPD Whitsunday - Credit: Wouter Kingma

A test of the aquatic skills at XPD Whitsundays – Credit: Wouter Kingma

Craig says there will be 50 teams competing with four people in each team; plus about 100 volunteers. He anticipates about 48 teams will be from outside the Townsville area, which will be a huge exposure opportunity for the city, especially with the film crew who will make a 60-minute documentary of the event.

“The best thing about Townsville is that there’s such diversity in such a small area,” tells Craig. “The course is 700km, but we’ve got a lot to explore – beaches, coastline, islands, rainforest, the Great Dividing Range and the outback. Most people who compete will be travelling from outside the area; so it’s a great opportunity for them to look around the place.”

XPD Tasmania - Credit: Owen Hughes

Some dramatic scenery in XPD Tasmania – Credit: Owen Hughes

Sam agrees it will be a win for the region. “It’s exciting to have XPD in Townsville,” he says. “If you can’t race it, then get behind it and support it: They need a heap of volunteers. It’s worth following if you can’t do it: It’s the real deal in Adventure racing.”

The XPD Expedition Race is in Townsville and North Queensland from August 3-14, 2015. Registrations are open Friday, November 28:

XPD interesting facts

  • There’s live coverage of the event online: Every competitor will wear a tracker so you can log onto the XPD Live website and see exactly where they are. Somewhere near you maybe?
  • The winning team is expected to complete the 700km course in 4-5 days. Other teams have up to 9.5 days.
  • The entry fee for XPD is $7,990 per team.
XPD Whitsunday - Credit: Wouter Kingma

Enjoying a team moment in XPD Whitsundays – Credit: Wouter Kingma

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Carly Lubicz

Carly Lubicz

Carly Lubicz is combining two of her great loves — writing and getting active. Previously working as a journalist, sub-editor, and editor in newspapers and magazines; she is editor and co-founder of TheGo Townsville. She stays active with the staples of road cycling and yoga, but has recently discovered triathlon. And become addicted (apart from the swimming part). She also has a Cert III in Fitness and is passionate about improving mental health through physical activity.

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