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Sep

01 2018

On the first Saturday of September every year, a bunch of brave adventurers set off from somewhere on the Australian coast to Uluru, armed only with their bikes, a lightweight sleeping bag and a couple of tools. They call it the Race to the Rock. The route is crazy. The people riding it are even crazier. And the thousands of people that tune in for 2 weeks to watch it all unfold on an online map, well, they're crazy as well.

Each year the starting location changes, but the rules stay the same. Ride the full route. No drafting and no help that others couldn't also get along the way. To give you an idea of just how tough this ride is, each year they've run the race, less than half of the field has made it to the finish line. On the entry page, they actually advise potential participants not to enter the race, such is the isolation and the difficulty of riding through Central Australia. 

  

In it's first two years the race was won by Sarah Hammond, one of the world's toughest ultra endurance cyclists and the person responsible for it becoming unofficially known as 'the race so hard no man has ever won'. This year’s 3,500km route started in Cockle Creek, Tasmania and took riders over the snowy plateaus of Tassie's central highlands, across the Bass Straight (by plane or boat, riders choice) before the race resumed on the mainland where 3,000km of corrugated roads, days without food or water and the stifling temperatures of Outback Australia awaited them.

11 people started and only 4 made it to the end. Could Sarah Hammond make it 3 in a row?

  

Below is a photo journal we've put together from the race along with some reflective and somehow humorous commentary from first time participant, Emma Flukes. But first, meet some of the characters of Race to the Rock 2018:

Race to the rock riders 2018

Time to meet some of the incredible athletes embarking on Race to the Rock 2018.

Posted by Northsouth on Sunday, 2 September 2018

For the full story, we're also working on a documentary that we'll be releasing as soon as we can so stay tuned for that!

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

"Lots of people seem strangely fascinated about why I chose to ride through for 43 hrs without sleep this weekend. Sorry I’m a bit bad at updating the socials, but I’ll let you in on the secret tactics. It was a highly sophisticated strategy requiring military precision planning and execution. I wasn’t tired, so I didn’t stop. And then it was calm and lovely and I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather be than snacking on the Central Plateau as the sun came up, so I didn’t stop. My derailleur froze and both my bottles were solid ice up there which made hydration and gears tricky, but it was so still and beautiful and doing fresh skidz in all that dry snow was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Much later, the next night, I was tired. But by then I was bored and just wanted to get it done, so I didn’t stop. And that concludes my strategic masterminding. See y’all soon in Melbourne!" ~ Emma Flukes

  

  

  

Last year, Brazilian rider Fernando De Andrade attached eagle feathers to his shorts and flew to the rock in third place! This year, things didn’t quite go so smoothly. Watch his story from day 1 of Race to the Rock 2018:

FLY LIKE AN EAGLE FERNANDO

Last year he attached eagle feathers to his shorts and flew to the rock! This year, things didn’t quite go so smoothly. Day 1 of the 2018 Race to the Rock with the one and only, Fernando.

Posted by Northsouth on Wednesday, 5 September 2018

"Did some late night pedalling to get the kays done after a painfully slow morning of walking bikes up hills. Slept on a pile of aggregate under a railway bridge. I give it 4/10 for comfort, 10/10 for adventure. I’ve also been having trouble with some of my electronics. Most notably my SPOT tracker which kept shutting down. I let it get to me, and had a really shitty night of soul destroying hike-a-biking and stressing out about these possibly deal breaker issues."

  

  

  

"Had a really tough day yesterday and I’m not exactly sure why. Possibly just being irrational from sleep deprivation, possibly due to the total lack of stimulation on these long straight, flat roads at night. As a girl of the hills, 230ish km with less than 70vm of climbing is mentally very hard. Had a big sleep in a classy 70s porno motel bed and am off to find some calories ahead of an easy day today. I’m also experimenting with a new hairstyle?"

  

  

  

  

"If there’s one thing this bike ride is teaching me, it’s just how important is to be patient with yourself. It’s now taking me an hour to clean my bike up and pack my gear each morning, eating up valuable sleep time, because I can’t use my hands and my brain is tired and slow. I have to drop all the gear off my bike and hoist it over 3 different fences instead of one, just to hit the lowest point in the barbed wire – when I know full well that nobody else is having these #pintsizedproblems. But being frustrated doesn’t make my hands work better, or the fences lower. Just a baby day of pedalling today. Gonna get some snacks and naps in the bank tonight ahead of tomorrow’s sand terrors."

  

  

  

  

"Survived the -4C start and the seventh circle of hell, aka the world’s least enjoyable sandpit. All stocked up with toasted sangas and Picnic Bars (no Snickers, sadness consumes me) from Hattah, and with my high tech choccy milk holding device up front, we’re ready for anything. Off into the sunset the little rocket ship goes."
 

  

"Some more excellent #nappingoutdoors practice last night. I’ve nailed the art of setting my phone alarm 10 mins forward for a sneaky roadside dirt nap. It’s short enough that you don’t cool down, long enough to be SUPER rejuvenating. Less successful was managing to find the one puddle in 200km of sand and turning my bike into a block of clay. Was considering pushing through to the border but pulled up when the sand got a bit techie, thought it might be sensible to try and get into the routine of sleeping at night to trick body into thinking this is normal? I dunno, I’ve never done this before."

  

  

  

  

  

  

"Not gonna lie, I didn’t love that. Decided 313km between water/food/humans wasn’t enough of a challenge, so I dropped my sunnies and doubled back for them to round out 345 clicks of total isolation. My legs may never forgive me, but my retinas are eternally grateful. We’re into proper Strayan sunburnt country now, gotta look after dem peepers."

  

"Only nice thing about the last 30 hours was the view of the Flinders Rangers I had for about 14 seconds before the sun dipped below the horizon. Could do with a vacation from this endless corrugated gravel sandpit shit."

  

  

  

  

"While I should definitely be sleeping, brain has other ideas and has me wide awake after 4 hrs of snoozing. BOM has issued a severe weather warning for the area for 50 gusting 90km/h headwinds. Gonna sit tight in Yunta until they ease off, which may not be til tonight. It’s frustrating, but 48kg me plugging into a headwind on this hefty rig is madness, and I honestly don’t think it’s worth it for the 8km/h headway. Body is pretty munted after yesterday and I’m struggling to put power down so it might appreciate the hrs off the bike. Got some shopping (pain meds, hopefully) and repairs (ultralight backpack ripped a strap, the little rocketship is riding better than ever) to do. Trying to use a needle promises to be an interesting exercise with these crab claws I now have for hands."

Yunta m8

Posted by Emma Flukes on Monday, 10 September 2018
 

"Calm your tits, road signage, it’s like a 3 degree deviation in the road direction. They happen every 100km or so out here. I know it’s pretty scary."

  

  

  

  

"Today was an excellent day for: views 4 dayz, a suspension fork (which is still doing just fine despite exceeding service interval by a million-fold, thanks everyone for your concern). Today was a less good day for: a fully cooked IT band. Stopped taking photos when the agony started… so yeah about dawn then. Hopefully it sorts itself out overnight or I could be in a bit of strife. But really, Flinders Ranges are everything they’re cracked up to be and so much more. So stoked to have the opportunity to duck in here for a day. Everyone should quit their jobs and take their pushbikes here immediately. 10/10 recommend." 

  

  

  

"So I’m off into the big wide #strayan desert for real now. No running water, tight resupply windows, no phone reception. Hopefully next photos you see will have a bloody great big rock in ‘em. But if not… at least I gave it a red hot crack. Hope to see y’all on the other side of this wide brown land sometime soon." 

  

"Lied about the interwebs access, am holed up in Marree and found a rogue wifi. I’m not sure who this guy is or why he’s hanging out in eternal roadside purgatory, but I imagine this is just what happens to you if you live out here?"
 

  

  

"Yesterday was a bit of a horror. The other knee blew up only a few hours deep. They’ll be fine, just tired and cranky ligaments. Prescribed rest not much of an option right now. It’s amazing how unridable levels of pain become the new normal when you do ride through them – because there is literally no other option out here. The headwind was truly foul when it kicked in around 9am. Sadly spinning to win doesn’t work for me on these corrugations as I need torque to make headway against the wind. Big cogs and brute force are the only way. Estimate 100km spent out of the saddle gravity feeding pedal strokes to nurse my leg(s) and being blown off the side of the road. It wasn’t pretty. On the plus side, gonna get some great lats?"

  

  

  

"Scooting west across the map now just in time for the strong SWerly change that’s ripping through downtown Marree as we speak. Might have to make a sea anchor to keep myself planted on the road. The little rocketship could even make it to the moon for real this time…"

  

"This is what I would have posted a few days ago from Oodnadatta, if I’d had reception. What’s funny in hindsight is just how easy these couple of days were compared to what was to come (next post).] Yesterday was the redefinition of agony. Some dark times were had. I’m really proud of myself for pulling through that. Today was brown and uninspiring. I pedalled speedy to make it go away quicker. Old mate at the William Creek Pub who swore the whole road to Oodnadatta was “freshly graded… just like bitumen” was clearly lying. Ate an entire loaf of frozen bread en route. Guess the reserves are getting a bit low. At least it was multigrain?"

  

"I have never experienced the sensation of literally wanting to crawl under a tree and die with such frequency and ferocity as I have over the past couple of days. The irony being that there were no trees – there was absolutely nothing of anything. The first photo is a hilarious joke because I was travelling at about 7km/h on this surface into a hot headwind, for hours upon endless hours. I shouldda photographed all the cattle – which actually helped me a lot with the isolation – but that meant stopping and I was scared I’d never start again. Or facing the 50km of sand traps in the dark – but I was trying not to cry. Or the pathetic little shrub I curled up under in my bivy just after the SA/NT border – the tree that I sought out in the dark over the longest 1.7km of my life pushing across the border – my thinking being “when I die tonight, I’m closer to Finke than Oodnadatta. I don’t want the recovery to be jurisdictionarily confused by a border issue”. These are things that were, at the time, very real to me. But I dragged myself out of that hell hole. I’m out of it and I’m only a couple of days from a date with a big fucking rock and I don’t want to jinx it but I’m starting to believe I might actually be able to do this thing."

  

"So. At 05:46 local time this morning, I finally made it. After a sneaky trespass shower and enough breakfast for a month, I finally have some words.

If you’re wondering about the odd finish time, I decided sometime last night that it might be fun to push to finish under 19d. Absolutely emptied myself in a 90km ITT through the early hours of this morning to make it with 6 min to spare and round out a 370km final 24 hours. I’m destroyed, but it seemed right somehow to give this beast a final nod of respect by finishing strong. 18d 23h 54m for my first ever snackpacking adventure and I’m pretty stoked."

  

"Two parting thoughts before I go curl up in a pile of croissants and nap for a week: 1) ride what ya got; and 2) back yourself. Because if I can #hubbardtotherock on a wildly inappropriate child-sized carbon race hardtail “that will definitely fail”, having never bikepacked before, and with zero specific training, just imagine what you could be capable of? Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your encouragement and support, it’s meant the absolute world to me. The kindness of strangers has been truly incredible and is something I’ll never forget. It’s been wild. But for now, I’m off to King’s Canyon for a bit more of being in the middle of nowhere."

  

Congrats to Em and all of the other participants of this year's Race to the Rock on their truly inspirational achievement. Thanks for proving to the rest of us that there are still real adventures out there if you're brave and crazy enough to find them. For the 3rd time in a row Sarah Hammond won the race, in a staggering time of 14 days, 9 hours and 48 minutes, nearly 3 days in front of her nearest competitor. She remains the only person to have won the Race to the Rock.

A special thanks to all the guys over at Curve Cycling for putting on this incredible event, and in particular, Jesse Carlsson whose hours spent behind the laptop and out on the bike scouting out these ridiculous trails made the magic possible. Last but not least, we must also give a special mention to Old Yella, our 1992 beatup landcruiser who miraculously got us from Cockle Creek at the southernmost point of Australia all the way to Uluru without breaking down once, sort of.. but that's a story for another day. 

  

RACE TO THE ROCK

Distance
3,065 km
Elevation gain
12,103 m
Number of starters
11
Number of finishers
4

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