Spectators organised a late start to work to watch the rare sight of 36 teams from all over the world running down the beach at Strand Park just after 9am this morning, charging towards the very first leg of their tropical adventure that will see them covering nearly 650km in anywhere between five to nine days.
“However, this means nothing as anything and everything can and will happen over the next few days”
Despite the picture-perfect conditions (yes, our city really knows how to turn on the winter charm); there were dramas early on in XPD Tropics 2015 — of course. While those of us still on the beach thought one team was in need of an early rescue at just 20 minutes into the paddle, it turned out their impromptu stop was to retrieve the tent poles that had fallen overboard. Ooops — it will already be a rough enough sleep without that added challenge. Lucky the snorkel (for later on the island) came in handy in their recovery mission.
Then there were reports that Team 21 — Team Moonen from Holland — had a shaky start with a heavy pack causing them to tip out of the kayak and the pack to be inundated with water. Lucky it’s nice and sunny so hopefully it will dry out and nothing was destroyed.
Looking at the live tracker now (just after 3pm on Wednesday, August 5) Team Raidlight from France is in the lead, followed by Team Peak Adventure (Australia with local Sam Stedman), Team Mountain Designs (Australia) and Merrell Adventure Addicts (South Africa). However, this means nothing as anything and everything can and will happen over the next few days.
The consensus amongst athletes is that the first day is more about having fun and exploring — they are getting to snorkel, SUP and trek around Magnetic Island’s pristine coastline — and there is a compulsory overnight stop tonight at West Point. The advantage of getting there earlier tonight is that those teams will get more rest ahead of the 6am start and 60km ocean paddle tomorrow, but — regardless of what time everyone gets in today — they’ll all be on even footing in the morning due to this rest.
From there, things are going to get brutal — the top teams will try to reach the mid-camp at Charters Towers without stopping at all — yep, no sleep for a couple of days, moving over treacherous and challenging terrain for hours-upon-hours. That six hours rest and hot meal is going to go down pretty well! (See our preview story from yesterday to find out where exactly they’ll go and to view the overall map).
Pre-race chat with Sam Stedman
Townsville’s premier adventure athlete, Sam Stedman, told us that his team — Peak Adventure — was one of those aiming to go non-stop to Charters Towers from tomorrow morning. Here’s some info from the chat we had with him before he raced off… literally.
“If we have a smooth race and the navigation is friendly to us then we may able to do a 48-hour race from the paddle on the Island and bike into mid-camp without any sleep”
How are you feeling? Getting to the start line is the hardest part of this race [with the training and logistics] and we’re almost there. We are really keen to get racing because we all love exercising every day, but we’ve been trying to rest for the race — we’re pretty keen to get out there and burn some energy and get a handle on this course.
Is there anything you are concerned about, or will find particularly challenging? The course is what I thought it would be — it will certainly showcase some great environment surrounding Townsville. It works well having the compulsory rest on the first night as, with an expedition race, you are usually pretty sleep deprived, but this sleep will put us in good stead for the next few days.
We are a good paddling team and it will be nice to paddle up north. Paluma is my favourite area, so I’m really looking forward to the trek up there. The mountain bike is something similar to the Paluma Push, then we’ll trek down to Running River Gorge, which will be spectacular and is an area I know well.
“There is a lot of off-track and technical navigation and whoever comes out of that first will win the race, and I think you’ll find that a few teams are going to struggle”
From there, we can hopefully get to mid-camp without sleep — we’re not sure. But if we have a smooth race and the navigation is friendly to us then we may able to do a 48-hour race from the paddle on the Island and bike into mid-camp without any sleep. The expedition really starts after mid-camp with a 145km bike leg — it doesn’t seem too challenging, but that one will be a mind game. The second last leg [45km outback trek via inaccessible private stations] will make or break your race — that’s what all teams are looking at — there is a lot of off-track and technical navigation and whoever comes out of that first will win the race, and I think you’ll find that a few teams are going to struggle. Every way you look at it, it will be challenging and the better prepared you can be from the rest of the race to be on the top of your game when you get there… we’re going to need everything we’ve got. Hopefully we’ll come through that well and enjoy a nice bike leg [50km] home.
Is having the local knowledge a bonus? I guess a little bit, as I do know most of the course up to mid-camp so it helps to keep your mind occupied and help with the navigation; although we still need to go off the map because there are checkpoints in places that I certainly have never been to, and will probably never go to again. It will be exciting for me to race through the terrain I know, but then in the back half of the race, we’ll go through some areas I’ve never been to before with private properties and amazing countryside, so it will be a real adventure and that’s what we’re looking forward to.
“The race is hard enough to do on its own, let alone trying to beat the other teams at the same time”
Are you in it to win it? What’s your goal? We’ve got a great team, but this race has a lot of international and Australian teams in it that are talented — I think there are three teams that are in the top 10 in the world in expedition racing. Jarad [Kohlar] and I are adventure racers, not real keen expedition racers, so it is a step-up for us, while Josh Street is an expedition racer and has done very well in his races in the past. Emma [Weitnauer] joined us for GeoQuest [Peak Adventure won this race in June] and she’s certainly a very tough racer.
So we’ve got the right team, but there’s a lot to do between the start and finish of this race and we’re not going to worry too much about the competition, but just doing what we do best — if we do it well and have a smooth race then we’ll certainly be there at the pointy end of the field, but anything can happen to the best in the business. The race is hard enough to do on its own, let alone trying to beat the other teams at the same time. We’ll just take each leg as it comes as there are some very good athletes doing this course.
Anything else? Track us online at live.xpd.com.au — having such an iconic event in Townsville, we really want people to get behind and support the race. On a personal note, I’d love to see people at the spectating points and at the finish line at the Mercure [Peak Adventure are hoping to be finished on Sunday, but keep an eye on the live tracker to see approx. when]. It’s long and lonely out there, so to see some familiar faces would be magnificent. We will be blogging during the race so check that out too.