Taking place at the end of October – this is easily Australia’s toughest and most remote Mountain Bike event. It’s definitely worth a look for the intrepid cyclist.
The Flinders Ranges Outback Epic is one of the most remote races and arguably the longest point to point race in Australia. It follows the 205km Flinders Ranges by Bike signposted tourist ride which most people traverse over 3 to 5 days and stay at the track hosts, Wilpena Resort, Rawnsley Park, Willow Springs and Gum Creek stations. Race headquarters at Wilpena has motel rooms, luxury tent accommodation, camping, a restaurant, bar / bistro and general store. Non riding family and friends are easily occupied with numerous bushwalks, the historical old Wilpena station building complex and plenty of scenic drives.
In this race there are 3 possible distances, the whole 205km loop, or the 109 and 64 km races that start remotely so all finish at Wilpena resort. A relay option is also available. Last year, the 100 riders entered in this 2nd edition were very worried the night before as gale force winds and rain hit the resort. Luckily this change resulted in a low maximum temperature of 24 degrees and 15-30 kph tailwinds for the more exposed sections. While the single track is minimal and the climbing on the low side, the distance is huge, the scenery spectacular and the personal challenge massive. It’s so remote that normally you’d be lucky to see any other people. On the positive side there is plenty of wildlife for photo opportunities.
The premier race is the 205km unsupported option, with only water available on course, everything else must be carried. Many questions abound – such as how much food and spares to carry and whether to start hard or stay within the company of others? It was designed as both a race and a challenge. Those taking it more casually had to keep ahead of ‘the grim reaper” with cutoff times necessitating a 13 kmh riding average to finish under 16 hours and before 10.30pm. Race organizers kindly provided a spreadsheet so riders could estimate their expected average speed to work out when and where they should be at any given time.
Also – it’s worth watching this video below of the Port Lincoln team who gave it a go.
For more of an idea of what the event is all about here are post-race comments from one of Australia’s top mountain bikers, Queensland Jodie Willett. (pictured below).
What motivated you to race the Flinders Outback Epic?
I needed to address the fact that I have raced in many countries but never even seen the authentic Aussie outback of the Flinders Ranges. Now when overseas riders ask whether they can see kangaroos and emus whilst racing in Australia I can say yes!
Although it is only a one day race, albeit a long and hard one, we made it into a mini holiday, stopping overnight to ride the renowned Melrose trails on the way back to Adelaide.
The other positive was that there was good accommodation and food available at the Wilpena Resort, so we just had to roll out of bed to the start.
Did the Flinders Ranges impress? Certainly did – the different colours and the views of the mountain ranges and the Pound were stunning. There were abundant wildflowers too. Best of all were the numerous emu’s (and their chicks) and kangaroos, both along the course and in the campsite. Lots more to explore in the area too.
How did you find the riding? The variety of the riding conditions and the rawness of the natural trails kept me alert, constantly adjusting to the conditions. This “grass roots” biking, with not a groomed trail to be seen, was a nice change. (There was some peloton riding on the small section of bitumen exiting Wilpena; some rocky gullies and wash-outs leaving Willow Springs; a sandy 500 metre creek section; through sheep yards and even the shearing shed at Gum Creek station; a steep climb with tremendous views up Red Hill; the exhilarating descent of Razorback ridge and finally the last fun 5 km single track of a walking track.)
I noticed that you led a pack of 5 guys off the bitumen and into the dirt tracks of Rawnsley station. That was probably a bit misleading. As is often usual the guys bolted at the start like it was a 40 km race, so I mainly “sat on” maintaining a steady heart rate over the initial kilometres into the wind. Not knowing the other riders technical abilities I didn’t want to get caught behind them in the dirt, so led off the bitumen and then worked with anyone that was around from then on.
Any problems? The challenge of what to carry to fuel a 205km race unsupported was one of the differences of the event. I opted for brownies and dates but that didn’t suffice so I’ll have to work out a better plan for next time. Also I put this food in my camelback but had to stop several times between water points to get more out – not efficient. All up a great experience though.
You can find out more about the Flinders Outback Epic including registration costs, date etc. here. The event takes place on October 24.