Race to the Rock

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Ever heard of The Race to The Rock? Also dubbed “The race so difficult no man has ever finished.” Well, it just kicked off a few hours ago with seven bikepackers attempting 3,031 kilometers of remote, off-road, Australian outback from Albany to Uluru (the rock). See a couple of the bikes in the race, learn about the route, link to the great documentary from last year’s event, and follow the 2017 race tracker here…

The Race to the Rock is a 3,031 kilometer off-road, unsupported bike race beginning in the far southwest port city of Albany, the oldest town in Western Australia, and traversing an incredibly harsh and remote route to finish at Uluru, an iconic sandstone formation in a remote and inhospitable swath of Central Australia also known as Ayers Rock. The ride kicked off today (Sep 2 2017) with a cold and wet start at 6:22am local time… about 14 hours prior to this article publication. Why 6:22am? Jesse Carlsson, race visionary and founder of Curve Cycling, wanted to pay tribute to fellow ultra-endurance racer Mike Hall who was tragically killed in Australia while cycling the Indian Pacific Wheel Race back in March. According to the team at Curve, “He stopped at 6:22am, so to pick up where he left off, that is when we agreed to start.”

  • Race to The Rock, Western Australia Bikepacking
  • Race to The Rock, Western Australia Bikepacking

Uluru

Top two photos courtesy of William Hartnett from his Oodnadatta ride.

The 2016 Race to The Rock was the first running of such an event. Taking inspiration from the pages of Australia’s rich cycling history, founder Jesse Carlsson wanted to create a highly challenging and testing race that paid homage to the Overlanders, pioneers from over 100 years ago who used bicycles to span massive distances across the Australian outback before roads, communications and reliable maps even existed. According to Adam Lana of Curve Cycling, “Riders departing Albany on Saturday will be doing it embarrassingly easy compared to the pioneers of the 1890s.”

To give you an idea of its difficulty, there were 20 participants in 2016. Nineteen of them were forced to drop out of the race due to exhaustion, injury, or perhaps the fact that they simply underestimated the course. After such a high rate of attrition, Jesse made an effort to deter riders from taking part this year. Ultimately a small crew of seven passionate cyclists made it through a deliberately confusing entry process, designed so that only those with a real desire to ride made it to the group start.

It’s safer, less painful and less soul destroying to remain a dot watcher, I don’t expect many will finish.” said Carlsson in a posting on the race’s Facebook page. “This is a genuinely tough event in the age of countless events pretending to be tough.”

The 2016 event had just one finisher, Sarah Hammond, who arrived at Uluru in just a little over eight days. As of this publication, Sarah is the only rider to finish the route in its entirety. Hence the unofficial slogan: the race so difficult no man has ever finished. Or as Jesse Carlsson put it, “The race is so difficult that it has only ever been completed by a woman.” This year, of the seven riders in the event there is one South African and one female (Sarah Hammond).

  • Race to The Rock Map
  • Francis Birtles

The 2017 Race to The Rock Route

The 2017 route varies slightly from that of 2016 event (Adelaide to Uluru). The route takes in the full Munda Biddi trail, a purpose-built, long-distance, mostly off-road cycling track from Albany to Mundaring in the Perth hills. The final section of the 3,000+ km route will follow the Great Central Road, a ~1,100 kilometer dirt shortcut to Kata Tjuṯa (the Olgas), before finishing at Uluru.

As mentioned, the inspiration behind the Race to The Rock is to honor the forgotten history of the Overlanders. This year’s route is significant in that it will retrace some of Francis Birtles’s (shown above right) attempt to ride across the Great Victoria Desert in the summer of 1907. It will also touch on tracks ridden by the highly paid cycle couriers who rode risky, long-distance treks during the gold rush of the 1890s. In addition, to Dr Charles Laver, who rode his bike into remote mining and indigenous communities, treating those in need even if they had no money to pay.

To get a glimpse of the race we highly recommend watching, or adding to your watchlist, this incredible documentary from last year’s Race to The Rock. Also, below find some details about the bikes Sarah and Jesse are riding as well as a live race tracker following the event.

2017 Race to The Rock: Follow the Dots

Sarah Hammond’s CURVE UpRock

Sponsored rider Sarah Hammond is riding a Titanium CURVE UpRock 29er in this year’s event. According to the Australian bike company, CURVE Cycling, the Uprock is just as much at home on the XC race track as it is in the backcountry and has proven itself in the Tour Divide, OffRoad Finnmark, and of course was the only bike to cross the finish line at last year’s Race to the Rock.

Titanium CURVE UpRock 29er

  • Titanium CURVE UpRock 29er, bikepacking , Australia
  • Titanium CURVE UpRock 29er, bikepacking , Australia

Jesse Carlsson’s CURVE GMX Overlander

This is Jesse Carlsson’s personal rig on which he’ll be attempting the race. According to Jesse the GMX Overlander was directly inspired by asking the question, “What would the overlanders from the 1890s ride now if they could build a bike specifically for this type of riding.” With a clearance for 29×2.4″ tires, a titanium frame and bottle mounts in all the right places, we’ve had our eye on the Curve GMX Overlander for some time. :earn more about it at CurveCycling.com.

CURVE GMX Overlander, bikepacking Australia

  • CURVE GMX Overlander, bikepacking Australia
  • CURVE GMX Overlander, bikepacking Australia

If you would like to follow the race or find more information on social media check out @RaceToTheRock, @kevinbenky, and @flexgoogly on Instagram. You can also follow the Race to the Rock Facebook page. In addition, here’s a wealth of Race to the Rock preparation videos on the Curve cycling’s YouTube page. Also, thanks to William Hartnett for the top two photos in the story. Make sure to check out his ride report from the Oodnadatta.

8 Comments
  • Chris

    Do you know what drivetrains are on those bikes?

  • Both 1×11… Force1 on the GMX and XT on the Uprock. Looks like 36t x 11-42.

  • Justin Acciavatti

    Thought maybe they’d run Rohloff after the mud, based on the 2016 video…

  • tony

    I drove this route, there and back starting and finishing in Perth, in the early eighties and can fully attest to the harsh conditions. By the time we got back to Perth the vehicle needed several thousand dollars in repairs. Unless the road has improved in the last thirty years those riders are in for a real challenge and deserve all the accolades they can get.

  • Rohloff is very reliable but pretty heavy for racing purposes. And mud in the outback is the exception rather than the rule in the outback. It’s usually pretty dry.

  • Mark Troup

    Looked like the Belgian guy in the video was running a Rohloff with a belt. Didn’t see any others going that route though.

  • ultra.cycling.life

    Come and check out the Race to the Rock (Dot Watchers) Facebook group page here
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/130383637577505/

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