Amongst all the madness of 2020, the Race to the Rock still managed to go ahead. With many state borders closed, Melbourne still deep in lockdown, and international travel to Australia impossible, many people missed out, but thankfully a few lucky (mostly South Australian) riders still got to enjoy the highs and lows that Race to the Rock has to offer.
Once again Jesse Carlsson pieced together an amazing route, extending the inaugural 2016 route to Normanville, south of Adelaide, with a smorgasbord of the best single-track Adelaide has to offer. Below is a course overview and brief race summary of the 2020 Race to the Rock. For a full history of detailed daily reports, go to the Race to the Rock Facebook page.
We’d like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners and first people of this land on which we ride through and pay respects to Elders past, present and emerging. Race to the Rock covers a tiny but significant slice of this land, and the riders experience vast differences in how we all live and connect.
Race to Rock 2020
A huge congratulations to ALL riders who participated, but a special mention to Erinn Klein, Stephen Leske and Simon Eglinton who were the first three to finish!
Erinn arrived in Yulara Monday, 14th September 7:45pm (NT local time), covering 2,478 kms in 8 days, 13 hrs and 23 mins. This was Erinn’s third attempt at RTTR finishing 2nd in both 2018 & 2019, and as they say, the third time's a charm. Well done!
Stephen Leske was second, arriving in 10 days, 2 hours and 29 mins! On the last 24 hour push he put a massive 319 km effort to solidify his second place and celebrated with a very memorable beer.
A massive shout out to Simon Eglinton who finished third on his first attempt. Simon pedalled his Kevin of Steel 2,478 kilometres from Normanville SA, to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in 10 days, 9 hours and 29 minutes, holding a daily average of 238 kms. We are super proud to see him tackle and conquer this amazing adventure! Huge effort.
Congratulations Erinn Klein
About 30 riders set out from the start line in Normanville, south of Adelaide on the idyllic Fleurieu peninsula, at 6:22am. 15 riders officially registered their interest on the MAProgress tracking site, allowing dot-watchers to follow the race from home. Half of the riders planned to ride the full course to Yulara. The remaining riders wanted to enjoy a “little taste” of the Race to the Rock, which ended up being a tough day in the saddle.
Normanville is located on the Fleurieu Peninsula about 85 kilometres south of Adelaide, and boasts some of the prettiest coastlines in Australia. The Fleurieu is home to some of the best red wines in the world from the McLaren Vale wine region. It also happens to be a gravel riding paradise, with beautiful dirt roads snaking through the rolling hills and the beach is never far away. The Curve guys took a group of riders around this special place on a three-day flashpacking trip in early 2019.
The Amuse-Bouche: Normanville to Norton Summit
The course was designed to showcase the awesome off-road cycling network that Adelaide has to offer, from beach riding, to gravel roads and a lot of technical single track through the Adelaide Hills. Don’t forget the climbing! A heap of climbing! Close to 4,000 m in the 185 km amuse-bouche. Jesse always likes to include a few surprises and the twists and turns on the course teased riders with glimpses of Adelaide from some of the best vantage points in the Mount Lofty Ranges, before they had to ride away again, leaving them wondering “when will the madness stop Amuse Bouche’ section, arriving at Norton Summit at approximately 8pm that same day.
On the day, David Rossi crushed the Amuse-Bouche section, arriving at Norton Summit at approximately 8 pm after a tough day in the saddle. It didn’t end there for David. He continued onto the Mawson trail, the next section of the course, and set sail for Blinman in the northern Flinders Ranges.
With a mouthful of Amuse-Bouche, the riders hit the Mawson Trail. Some riders chose to ride the Entrée, from Normanville to Blinman, the northern terminus of the amazing Mawson Trail. Full course riders headed on from there into the remote Australian outback.
The Mawson Trail is a long-established and well-ridden bikepacking route roughly 900 km long, from the outskirts of Adelaide to Blinman in the northern Flinders Ranges. The trail gives you a bit of everything. It changes regularly and covers outback roads, state forest, national park fire trails, farm access tracks and unmade or unused road reserves. It’s also got some rocky single track and even a few sandy patches. During September the canola fields in the southern sections of the course are in full bloom. You definitely get some big sky feelings out there as you head north dashing between friendly country towns.
Entree: Normanville to Blinman
186 km + 893 km = 1,079 km
Starting in the Adelaide Hills the Mawson trail takes you through the Barossa and Clare Valley wine regions. Things begin to dry out after that, as you grind through the edge of the Australian outback. Towards the end of the Mawson Trail there is a massive payoff for all the hard riding, when you make your way through the stunning peaks and amazing scenery of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. The sunrises and sunsets are phenomenal as the rich reds of the outback glow at dawn and dusk. The clear night skies are filled with more stars than you’ve ever seen before. It’s a very special place.
This year’s entree was extra spicy with a few days of strong 50 km/h headwinds. This was properly tough riding, and a few had to succumb and retire early. Ollie Klein, who was battling for the front position pulled out, leaving Erinn to claim the title of being first to finish the Entrée in Blinman.
This left a handful of riders hungry for the main course, and it was a lot to swallow. As riders left the mountainous beauty, and relative security, of the Flinders Ranges, they descended into a new world. Welcome to the Australian outback. Riders followed the fast bitumen roads of the Outback Highway to Marree which included a 30 km detour along the beaten-up Old Beltana Rd through heavy bulldust, gravel and dried up river crossings following the old Ghan Railway line.
The Main Course: Blinman to Yulara
1,404 km + 893 km + 186 km = 2,483km
It was a taste of what was to come, as from Marree, they hit the Oodnadatta track, a sandy often corrugated road that travels just south of Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre, the lowest point in Australia, at approximately 15 m below sea level. Here the big gaps between the little, yet colourful remote outposts of William Creek and Oodnadatta see the riders scrambling around opening hours, hoping to get to the William Creek pub or the famous Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta before they close for the evening. If they don’t make it in time, they need to wait until the morning to get the food and water they need to push on.
From Oodnadatta they head north on the most remote and sandy section of the route. This 430 km stretch to Kulgera without resupply has one waterhole after 170 km. It is a barren track through the remote Australian outback without much of a safety net for the riders. The aboriginal community of Aputula-Finke is just past the NT border, however due to COVID-19 restrictions, travellers were advised not to enter the community. That meant riders had to aim for the Kulgera roadhouse situated on the busy Stuart Hwy, and the first sign of bitumen that riders would have seen in a while.
The final stretch is a grind to Uluru, which sees riders return to outback roads where they battle more sand, corrugations and even some cattle, with riders reporting getting startled by cattle at night. Erinn Klein had favourable conditions at the end of his race. Assisted tailwinds he surprised dotwatchers with a super-fast final 200km. He finished at Uluru's entry gate under the veil of dark. He would not have even seen Uluru, the rock he was racing to, as he arrived. These races often don’t have fancy finish lines and sometimes the only person to take a finisher’s photo is you, and that’s exactly happened with Erinn. Somehow, it’s a perfect finish. It is only internal motivation that can get you through a tough ride like this – so to finish alone, like you have ridden so much of the ride, to collect your thoughts seems right. It was a massive effort from Erinn. Well done!
The Race to the Rock season is August - September (you can probably throw in April as well). This route is a great one for touring during this season. Why not do your own tour when it works for you? Trapped in another state? Why not check out the other Race to the Rock courses or sections of them if you're allowed to do so.