2013 FINAL RESULTS
205K Unsupported Pairs Rider Results. Average time 11:20:19
205K Supported Pairs Rider Results. Average time 12:36:35
109K Supported Solo Rider Results. Average time 6:46:16
64K Supported Solo Rider Results. Average time 3:45:17
Race Report from Ollie Klein, 205km Unsupported Pairs Winner with Nigel Willoughby. Race time 9:41:31 = avge speed of 21.2km/hr
After the relatively short drive to the race of only 5 hours (430km North of Adelaide), normally I’m driving over to the Eastern states which involves a 7 to 14 one way drive to do a 100k marathon race, I thought 5 hours for a 205k race was great value! The Flinders Ranges Outback Epic is one of the most remote races on the calendar. This extraordinary landscape is 800 million years old and has been home to Adnyamathanha people for tens of thousands of years. There’s not much human habitation going on which is very interesting because you’re out in places not too many people can get to other than by walking or riding.
Arriving to race headquarters/rego I was welcomed by a huge area set aside for the racers in Wilpena Caravan Park, everything was in close proximity, showers, toilets, undercover outdoor kitchens, laundry etc. Everything is a no brainer. Even if you don’t want to camp there’s the resort with restaurant, bar/bistro, swimming pool and general store. There’s heaps to do for family friends who venture up with you also as Wilpena Pound is a natural amphitheatre of mountains, there are many bushwalks and the hike to St Mary peak is a certainly worth doing. Enough of the tourist information let’s get to the race.
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.
Racing 205km on a mountain bike is not easy! Throw in a team mate (once you find someone just a crazy) and you have all sorts of challenges especially when racing unsupported: What is each others strengths and weaknesses? How long will it take? Do we go out hard or stay with a group? How will we feel after 50, 100, 150 kilometres? How much nutrition will we need to carry? Spares? And how do we carry it all? Which bike to use? Well that one was easy, I chose to go light and fast with the Santa Cruz Highball Carbon 29’r as it would chew up the kilometres. – Racing unsupported means only water is available on-course, everything else you must carry.
By the way, a little birdy told me that next year there might be a Solo unsupported category.
The format of the days racing was basically 3 separate races in one with various categories. The 205k, 109k and 64k all starting at different times during the day with a cut off time of 10:30pm with a chance of the competitors all catching each other around the course, kind of like a handicap, but not. The race starts were calculated to military precision, race organisers provided a spreadsheet that you could estimate your expected average speed to work out when and where you would be at any given time. This was awesome!
Our plan was to get to the start of the 109k race around the same time as the scheduled start of 10:30am. With our race starting at 6:30am we had something to aim for, if we make it, who knows – 96k in 4 hours, of course we can! Maybe?
Having ridden the course six months prior I knew this was possible as the first half of the race was fairly straight forward, head out on the asphalt under Police escort for a couple of kilometres from Wilpena Campground, then along the foot (or is it feet) of Wilpena Pound on double track over to the Rawnsley Park property, which, by the way the views were amazing as sunrise approached, apart from the 20 or so Kangaroos which we woke up and decided to hop next to us and then dart across randomly! Wakey! wakey!
From Rawnsley Caravan Park there was a fair bit of open dirt road, but to be expected, as you can’t have it all wine and roses for 205 kilometres in the Flinders. It was time for my partner Nige Willoughby and I to get on with it, he was a little hesitant before the race but I knew he could do the distance as he’s got the ability to get in the zone and keep pushing the pedals a good pace for hours.
Heading North/Northeast we had the best tailwind ever! Glancing regularly at the speedo and seeing 40+ kph was super encouraging. Once we turned North though the smiles disappeared, 20-30kph headwinds, this was going to be hard for quite a while – we’re talking hours, but knowing we would be rewarded later with a tailwind, spurred us on. There were no Peletons here, it was every team for themselves. We got a break on the start bunch very, very early on, not sure if that was a good idea at the time but we needed to keep to an average speed of around 25kph to get to the 109k race starting at Willow Springs, (a private working sheep station, campground and 4WD mecca in the area.) As it turned out with four minutes to spare we arrived, the start line was ready, everyone was cheering as we found our way to the feed station to refuel and get going before their race started.
Next stop was Gum Creek another sheep station 50k away and 140k into the race. It was really cool to have the 109 racers pass us during this time, great to have a quick chat and a word of encouragement. I had several flashbacks over the day to the Cape Epic, a huge multi-day race in South Africa, as the terrain, scenery and effort involved seemed all too very familiar. Willow Springs to Gum Creek was the most technically challenging as the terrain was true ‘Flinders’, rocky & gnarly. We started to see people on the side of the track with flat tires asking for tubes and sure enough we ended up being one of them. We quickly tried to fix the flat, but not much luck there, it wouldn’t seal, so in went a tube and off we went, for a little while at least, we needed to put in another tube a bit later on and lost a fair of time messing around as racers passed us. Not knowing if they we’re 205r’s or 109r’s, we soldiered on, still tackling the headwind which for us felt like it was pushing us backwards.
On entering Gum Creek we were diverted into an elevated shearing shed that was filled with people cheering, it was awesome!
Time to fill up fluids again. We were both well over drinking sweet stuff by now, so we filled up with lots of water, did some minor bike maintenance and as we were leaving the feed zone the second place team of Steven Lee and David Clark arrived. Crap! We better get a move on! I knew this section of the course was going to be mucho fun, we now had the wind behind and lots of flowing double track ahead.
With only 64k’s to go we were feeling revitalized and knew we needed to keep throwing down the Torq gels to get us to the finish. We started catching some riders from the 109 race which helped spur us on. As the terrain got more undulating, the views got even more amazing as we ascended to Bunyeroo Valley Lookout, it’s difficult racing and remembering to look around to enjoy the spectacular scenery. Having ridden the last 15 km the day before we knew what was left was a mix of roller coaster double track that fed into single track and then the finish. Not far now but still an eternity away, as I was busy in my own world pushing the pedals not realising that Nige was no longer behind me, I only found out after the race that he squeezed in a couple more gels and caught back up, with me none the wiser, there I was chatting to myself, the loopy dude talking to the trees.
After being out on course for most of the day, 9hrs 41min 31secs to be exact with a moving time of 9hrs and 15 mins (Ave. 21.2 kph) we crossed the finish line! There was a huge sense of relief that we did it! We won! The tantalising smell of the provided BBQ soon took my attention, mmm foooood.
My hat, well… helmet, goes off to the organisers, Event Strategies and volunteers as setting up any race and making it safe is a task but doing so for a race of this length and location is phenomenal. As it wasn’t just the logistics of distance but also the various landowners that included South Australian Government, Homestead/Sheep stations, Private enterprise and the local Aboriginal Communities.
Race Report from Kay Haarsma, 205km Supported Pairs finisher with Debbie Rodgers. Race time 14:20:48 = avge speed of 14.3km/hr
Beating the Grim Reaper, that was the main challenge for my partner Debbie Rogers and me in the Hammer Nutrition Flinders Ranges Outback Epic MTB Race. Riding 205 kilometres seemed feasible, but beating the cut-off times along the way, was a potential worry, especially if we were to have any mechanicals. The time limit was 16 hours which equated to exactly a 12.86kph average over the 205km. We chose to compete in the supported category, with Gary (Debbie’s husband) providing cheer and sustenance along the way.
Finding a partner had been my first necessity. I felt I needed some-one with roadie training to make use of the faster sections, but also some-one who had experience at ultra-long endurance type events and thus had a bit of grit! Jess Douglas came to mind but she was too young to qualify us for the 50+ category overall!! The fact that our “metre-eaters” team ended up being the only all women team was a surprise. Warrnambool based Debbie had done an Ironman triathlon and was really a roadie when I first encountered her doing her first ever mtb race. I sent her nice photographs of the Flinders Ranges; assured her that as an orienteer I wouldn’t get her lost in the great outback and was flexible with the truth in describing the course as not technical.
We met up at Wilpena Pound the day before the “Epic “and I explained the various sections and we sorted out our strategy. This was to ride hard in the easier first 100km to get a nice time buffer over the Grim Reaper. The 100-135km section, which I hadn’t previously ridden, was deemed the hardest part and most of the last 16km was seriously uphill and featured about 30 creek crossings. Debbie had thought she might need some changes of bike clothes during the race, but I deemed that fashion and cleanliness weren’t a priority. Even toilet stops were to be co-ordinated! Gary was tasked to have bike bottles pre-mixed and food ready. He met us 8 times on the course – perhaps a bit excessive but nice anyway. After a test ride on Saturday Debbie decided to abandon her cleated shoes as she wasn’t happy in them over rocky terrain.
A start with police escort at 6.30am seemed a bit excessive, as the only things moving, besides us, were kangaroos and emus. We time trialled the roadie section towards Rawnsley Park sitting on 40-45kph. We had to ascend the short but steep Pugilist Hill at the 35km mark then it was onward into private land towards Sacred Canyon. There we got a rude shock – 25 kph headwinds that would trouble us for most of the daylight hours. So strong that we had trouble hearing each other speak. Navigation was easy as the Flinders Epic followed a signposted “Flinders by Bike route.” However organiser Malcolm Robertson had added numerous supplementary signs, cones and tapes. We had a laugh at the cones, as given the windy conditions they all had rocks placed on top. “At least that’s a few rocks we don’t have to ride over” Debbie mused.
About the 60 km mark my tubeless back tyre inexplicably went flat. I pumped it up but just a little further along it was down again – I couldn’t remember the last time I had changed a tube and predictably I was inept. Initially the nut next to the valve couldn’t be enticed off but Debbie’s attack with a rock solved that one! Then my CO2 canister didn’t work – it was in fact empty! Now how did that back wheel go on again?? The minutes were rushing by and I could feel the Grim Reaper creeping closer. We continued on, saying little, but both feeling frustrated. We had been playing “leap frog” with a team of guys who were about the same pace and thus it was disappointing to see them with a broken derailleur at the 85km mark and having to pull out.
The beautiful downhill 3 km ride into Willow Springs homestead was exhilarating. Even more so for Debbie who watched an emu chase me for over a kilometre. I would have been emu “tackled” if Gary hadn’t driven the car up alongside, causing the emu to cartwheel! The next 15 kms were quite rocky and uphill, as expected, but it was the final 30 kms into Gum Creek that seemed to go on forever, aided and abetted by the headwind. Included in this was 500 metres or so up a sandy riverbed!
Gum Creek station was a brilliant checkpoint as we had to zig zag through the sheep yards and up a ramp into the woolshed! I had always viewed Gum Creek as the pivotal point of the race – if we were 90 mins or so ahead of the time limit, we would have a good buffer. We actually had 81 minutes and importantly both of us were feeling quite good physically and much relieved mentally to be on the “easy” last 64 km leg home. Deb found her second, or was it third wind and I had to play chasey on the 2 km diversion up Red Hill. My left quad was cramping a little so this was a good excuse for a few metres of walking. I took time to glance at the view, and in the fading light of dusk it was fabulous. The next 10km was almost all downhill with great scenery. Debbie even shot a few photos with her phone. If I had taken my camera we would have taken 2 days for the course!
Leaving the Elatina hut checkpoint at the 175km mark, we finally had to switch on our lights. Throughout there had been inspirational signs, and we had a laugh at the one saying “celebrate your race with us at the 7pm BBQ” and wondered if they would still be cooking at our probable arrival between 8.30-9pm. Having dispensed with the Grim Reaper we now focused in getting home in time for a free feed! I briefed Debbie re the ruts and twists in the Bunyeroo descent as we didn’t want a crash at this late stage. Safely at the bottom we passed through the last checkpoint, thus allowing the volunteers to head home. Being the last riders through checkpoints for the last 100km we were always warmly received! Many thanks must go to all the helpers who did a marvellous job.
We rode the last 16km pretty well but the climb still seemed endless, and we were both extremely happy to see the gate which indicated we had 5km to go of mostly flat single track. Organiser Malcolm even had some officials posted 1 km out to warn of our impending finish, and a sizeable crowd welcomed us “home.” We had done it – beaten the Grim Reaper and even made the BBQ!
The “Flinders Epic” was a great event that catered for the elite and average riders alike. We probably had almost an hour off the bike, with mechanicals and food / drink top-ups but still made it well within the time limit. The unsupported option really could boom in the future, as it allows for a level playing field for interstate or overseas riders too. Adding in the 64 and 109km solo races gives everyone a chance to ride in this unique outback environment. Put this race on your bucket list now!