Mountain bikers from all over North Queensland tested their skill and endurance at the first ever HotRock24 at the weekend – the region’s only 24-hour mountain bike race.
With the action stationed at Ross Dam; there were 186 riders who signed up for the marathon that was previously an eight-hour-race. Some completed the amazing feat solo, while others joined to tag-team throughout the night; and those who like their sleep did the first and last five hours of the momentous race; heading home for a snooze or enjoying the on-site entertainment in-between.
While World Champion Mountain Biking 24-Hour Solo Single Speed rider Brett Bellchambers travelled from Canberra to be part of the action and was impressed with the event, scenery and friendliness; victory was secured by Graham Grant of Cairns who completed 34 laps in a little over 23 hours at an average time of 41 minutes per circuit.
Catching up with Graham the day after on his way back home, he says his hands and lower back are still sore, but the mammoth effort was worth it and a culmination of eight weeks of intensive training. His wife and eight and 11-year-old boys were there to watch him finish the race which made it all the more special.
“The course was pretty brutal, especially the last two hours when I crashed a couple of times as I got really tired,” Graham says. “I was exhausted at the end and there was definitely an emotional release with all the training and build up to it paying off – I turned into a bit of a blubbering mess there for a while (laughs).
“It’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve done physically and having my wife and boys there to see me was just fantastic – they’ve been so supportive while I’ve been training up to 24 hours a week.”
Graham says that the race was extremely well organised and – while it was a bit early to contemplate just now – he’d be keen to return next year to defend his title.
Other participants agreed the courses were challenging, with three routes set for the race. The first course ran from the start at midday through till 6pm and – while being the shortest – it included the most climbing. Course two ran from 6pm till 6am and was the longest at 13.6km, but also the flattest. The final course over a distance of 12.4km ran from 6am to the end at midday, which saw some rain and cooler temperatures.
Two teams finished with the most laps and longest distance travelled: Team-of-two Francis Ransley and Peter Lister entered as Corry Cycles ACE Racing from Mackay and completed 39 laps, riding more than 400km. Also nailing 39 laps was Townsville team of three Linton Cox, Damien Savis and Rob Connolly running under the CSC banner.
Local rider Justin Clauss and his brother Josh opted for the new ‘5hr + 5hr’ format where they did 12pm to 5pm and then 7am to 12pm saying it was a good family-friendly option and they’d return next year despite some very early mechanicals that had them chasing their tails.
Adventurethon’s Joel and Tamara Savage teamed-up for their first-ever mountain bike race together and brought the kids down for the night. Joel says it was a great atmosphere; he pushed himself to new levels; the band was pumping at the camp, and he expects the new 24-hour style to be “going off” next year.
“I never would have thought that I could ride for 24 hours, but after stringing together a few laps and seeing some of the awesome people out there made it look like something that was humanly possible,” says Joel, who ended up doing a few more laps than he bargained for when Tam, who had plenty left in the tank, had to take it easy with a bad back and instead embrace cheering duties.
“It looks scarier than it is, so I would recommend anyone considering it to just have a go – mountain biking is super social.”
Understandably, event coordinator Greg McLindon was exhausted, but vowed to run the event again next year after the successful debut. He has fond memories of competing in his first 24-hour race and knew the event would appeal to the local riders.
In a further bonus, $1500 was also raised for the Rural Fire Service who supported the race.
Full race results for Solo 24 Hours, Solo 5+5, Team 24 Hours and Team 5+5 are here. Well done to all the volunteers involved who made the event possible.
The next big mountain biking events are the RRR in Cairns on June 7, Round 2 of the NQ Downhill Series on June 14, XC3 Targa Townsville on June 28 and Paluma Push on July 19 (sold out). Also see Rockwheelers’ website for details of upcoming social rides.
Also, the Adventurethon National Challenge on July 4-5 at Pallarenda will be a great opportunity for riders to hit the pristine single-track at Under the Radar and Smedley’s Hill either as individuals adding in a trail run and ocean paddle, or just sticking to the bike leg as a team. There’s a fastest leg prize for the speediest MTB split for both men and women (the Smedley’s and UTR loops) – the challenge is on!