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TERRA AUSTRALIS 2020


It's ON!

Starting September 1 Terra Australis Bike Epic [TABE] is now just four months away and is a likely contender as the first ultra distance bikepacking challenge post Covid19.

6,250 kilometres

of isolation, social distancing, take away food .... who needs to train?

Over the past months all major European bikepacking races have been cancelled or postponed till the northern Autumn. Likewise the US Trans Am, Bike Non Stop have been cancelled. The Tour Divide [June 12] remains on the Calendar but will likely be a casualty or at best a shadow of it’s usual self. Certainly all Australian riders I’m aware of have abandoned any plans to travel to the US and ride.

With a view to generating some interest from riders by expanding their horizons to undertake the TABE challenge I’m going to throw out a daily 200k ride schedule that touches on the challenge, road [surface] conditions, re-supply, elevations and beauty of the challenge as a once in lifetime accomplishment. The current benchmark time of 31 days for the 6,250 kilometres was set by Steve Halligan in 2018. Steve lost 24 hours with a mechanical but probably saved a day with some re-routing in the opening days of the 2018 race. In my view a 30 day ride is very manageable and it will be down to 25 days if there is some momentum generated by a larger race field with some experienced riders pushing the hours.

THE BLOG POST

This daily ride Blog post will go out on the Breathtaking Events Facebook page and will be aggregated on this Breathtaking Events website ‘Blog’ page. In addition I’ve launched a new Instagram page breathtaking.events … a little more difficult to post blog material on Insta but we’ll see how it goes!

https://www.instagram.com/breathtaking.events/

SEPTEMBER START

My expectations are that Terra Australis this September will comfortably conform with any ongoing general social constraints post Covid19 assuming that our State and Federal Gov. management plans continue with an effective ongoing suppression program. Hopefully we may be able to have a few of the New Zealand bikepacking racers join us.

NO REGISTRATION

For the time being interested riders can message/email me with an Expression of Interest [EOI] without committing to Registering. This can be for a single Leg [see the website] or the Full Course and I’ll send out the .gpx files and Course Notes to make a start on their route planning pending confirmation of the start date for 2020.

GENERAL NOTES - NTH CAPE QLD CONDITIONS

ROADS and the …. Cape York ’tip’

A 20 minute boulder hop from the car park will get you to the start point for Terra Australis.

September is normally the tail end of the 4WD ‘season’ when enthusiasts do their lemming like pilgrimage up to the Cape York ‘tip’. I’ve read reports of 200-300 4WD vehicles a day heading north at breakneck [or vehicle break] speed on the northern Peninsular Development Road [PDR] to get to the ’tip’ as a lifetime benchmark of accomplishment. To date Terra Australis rider experience has been only a modest encounter with the 4WD fraternity.

There are some interesting fashion statements for the tip trip if that’s your thing!

Maintenance crews from the tip down to Cooktown are an occasional encounter for motorists and cyclists alike but on the evidence are only about at break even point in trying to keep ahead of the ravages resulting from this 100kph 4WD traffic.

For cyclists there are sections that are pounding washboard bone shakers with little escape… try the roadside spoon drains, try the right and the left looks better and so the game goes. Occasionally there’s a 10-20k section just refreshed by a road crew… couple of graders, water trucks, heavy roller and the road engineer up and down in his 4WD checking progress, dam water levels and repositioning road traffic signage…. a few conversations over the day and you’re on first name terms….. handy because he knows where the water is!

You get lucky every now and again with a sealed section … maybe 10-20k for some reason in the middle of nowhere and little bits in and out of roadhouses, tick gates and frequently flood sections. Go fast when you can, suck it in at 6-8-10kph when it’s all you can do. Throw a layer of 40º mid day heat and you can be sure you won’t be averaging your usual 20kph+ flat country speed. These roads are wide … 50 to 80m. By mid morning the tree line shade has retreated and won’t reappear till late afternoon. At best you can hope for is a gentle easterly cross breeze to give some respite from the heat.

SLEEP

When the day is done sleep comes easily … there’s the odd grader blade pushed off the road side 20-30m, maybe a turn around point for the road crew giving some flat ground. Night traffic is zero… a few minutes [no tent!] gaze at the stars and drift off to sleep in balmy evening temperatures.

Sadly this won’t last for ever … each passing year, ever more of the PDR is being sealed. If you want it dark, now’s the time!

Tomorrow the virtual ride commences .... it will follow on here!

Race countdown…

CAPE YORK

Box your bike up and you can be up in Cape York from the Eastern States by mid afternoon. Fly into Cairns and connect with a Skytrans or Rex daily flight to Bamaga. An alternate is a Qantas flight to Horn Island and a Ferry trip over to Seisia the coast port on the mainland. Seisia, Bamaga, Loyalty Beach are all options for early arrivals. Seisia Holiday Park has a kiosk that does evening meals for a good price and also has a well stocked Supermarket for last minute supplies.

Closer to the Tip, Punsand Bay [Cape York Camping] has cabins, safari tents etc and camping sites @ $20. They have a bar, do meals, breakfast and will do packed lunches. It’s quite busy with tourists and you will need to book if you want a Safari Tent. It’s a 27k ride up to the Cape tip from Punsand Bay for a pic at the 6:00am start.

Pajinka Resort

For those who like their sleep, the remnants of Pajinka Resort is right at the Tip car park and might appeal for a race eve sleepover rather than a 4:30am wakeup and ride to the start from Punsand Bay.

It’s a 20 minute boulder hop hike up to the Tip from the car park. At 6:00am its just breaking dawn for a quick photo Op, then a Le Mans sprint back to your bike…. 6,250k to go!

DAY 1

CAPE YORK - BRAMWELL ROADHOUSE

220k and 1429Vm

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/32467587

Temp. 30+ through the day Wind: E SE

As you can see from the Pajinka Resort buildings there’s heavy tree canopy up at the Tip. This gradually opens up as you get down to Bamaga. The road is mostly hard packed dirt and gets some love from a grader every now and again.

17k The Croc Tent a local tourist trap is roadside at the turn off to Punsund Bay. Most likely grass fires will be burning along the surrounding country and roadsides for the next 500k.

Peter Gargano captures Steven McLean spooking the local wild horses that frequent the Tip.

33k BAMAGA a quick drink stop, water top-up, collect your pre-order from the Bakery and then 12k of pavement past the indigenous settlements Umagico and Injinoo.

45k Its variable dirt roads for a loooong time.

76k A free trip over on the Jardine River punt. [$125 coming the other way if you’re a 4WD] There’s a small kiosk and campground just up from the ferry that has a few soft drinks and outside a filtered water tap.

By now it’s going to be getting towards midday and temperatures pushing towards mid 30’s with no shade from the well treed countryside. The heat will be oppressive and it will be 2-3 days before you acclimatise and adjust to your new life. Keep pushing on down to the track that leads across to the Old Telegraph Track [OTT]

100k It’s a two track sand bog over to the OTT. Plenty of bike pushing. Be prepared to be off and on the bike 20-30 times over the next 10k and no change out of two hours. Sometimes

111k This is the start of the northern section of the OTT. It’s late afternoon and the track firms as you commence your way towards Nolan’s Brook the first of many creek crossings all the way down to your first days target of the Bramwell Roadhouse.

112k Nolan’s Brook one of the deeper crossings and like all the crossings there are multiple entry exit points carved out by the 4WD fraternity looking for easier or more stupid ways of getting across. More often its quicker on the bike than a ponderous 4WD. Look for a shallow section, clamber up a bank and you’re on your way.

Cypress Creek, Canibal, Mistake, Sam, Gunshot creeks and more follow. Google or YouTube the names and you can get a fair idea of what you can expect. For riders pushing on, it will be in darkness. The OTT has many metre deep washed out gutters often running down the centre or across the track. It’s pick a line, keep a keen eye forward and be prepared to transit from one line across a gutter to a better line.

142k The northern section of the OTT ends and there’s a 7k section of the PDR.

149k The southern section commences. More creek crossings Cockatoo and the Dulhunty and Bertie Rivers. Track conditions improve on the southern section with generally firmer going until a 5k ball kicker sand section just when you can smell the burgers cooking … add another hour to your eta!

220k Bramwell Roadhouse. Burgers, chips drinks and a few other random lines. Showers, some camp shelters and power points around that are easy to access.

Typically leading riders will pull up short of the Roadhouse, take a sleep break and try and hit the roadhouse for the 7:00am opening…. mid-pack and slower another 6-12 or more hours.

It’s a tough 220k slog in oppressive heat for those taking time adjusting to the conditions.

Day 2

Bramwell R’house - Coen

231k 1096Vm

Temps: 30+ Wind E SE 15kph

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/32467669

As always on a multi day ultra race the Day 2 challenge is to deal with the body trauma and backup with another tough day. Keep hydrated, take some heat/shade breaks stay focused and have a plan so your fuddled head space doesn’t take over driving the bus. In my experience some sanity starts to set in as riders settle into a more manageable pace than the first day’s flush of adrenalin.

After the opening day of crystal clear fresh water flowing streams providing regular refill today requires a more strategic approach.

Heading out from the Bramwell Roadhouse, the first 100 metres on pavement, before the dirt commences … and the dreaded corrugations jolt your speed back to 6-8kph. At first the temptation and determination is to push on harder to maintain momentum rules …. good luck with that! Be patient. To quote a Steve Halligan mantra ‘it to shall pass’ …. eventually a better section will arrive and you’ll be rolling along at a comfortable 15-20kph and life is good.

6.5k The turn off to Bramwell Station, 7k down the side road. The Station hosts a campground, evening campfire singalong and $25 Buffet meal. The kitchen runs later than the Roadhouse if you want to try for it on the first night.

41k riders cross the Wenlock River and Morteon Telegraph Station, a popular camp ground is immediately on the right. There’s a freshwater tap at the end of the fence that runs along from the rudimentary ‘cafe’ that serves coffee, muffins and pies. Hard to ride past, ask Paul Lest!

Paul Lester heading out Day 3 2019

WATER: The notion that you need to be riding around with 6-8-10 litres of water in this country is a nonsense. With sensible pre race planning using the resources of satellite imaging and route planning apps it’s a simple process to identify dams, creeks, rivers along the route that will likely have water availability. The next 73k down to the next paved section is a case in point. I’ve counted ten dams less than 100 metres of the road. These won’t be visible from the road. Note a few of them on your cue sheet and the access track will be obvious if you’re keeping an eye out for a refill. Satellite images on wego.here.com are often superior to Google.

With contemporary water filters [Sawyer Mini or MSR] it’s a simple process to quickly filter a litre to get you through to the next freshwater tap if you’re running low.