In less than a week, the annual pilgrimage of adventure racers, surf skis, mountain bikes and support crew promised an “adventurous holiday” will be making their way to the NSW north coast for the 48 hour GeoQuest Adventure Race. GeoQuest has cemented itself as the premier adventure race in Australia, attracting all of the top teams from along the east coast for the most competitive race of the year. Now in its 16th edition, the race has had an unmatched run in Australia, and is a testament to the work and love that event managers Geocentric put into this race.
This year’s host venue will be the quiet seaside town of Sawtell where the race last visited in 2007. On a personal note, this will be my 10th GeoQuest with my first time at the race in 2008. I still recall following the Sawtell GeoQuest online for first time in 2007 through blog posts, leaderboards and photos (pre-GPS tracking days) knowing that I had to get to this race the following year, even if it did seem impossibly difficult. For those that raced in 2007, they will recall one of the toughest surf starts in the race’s history with discussion of the pounding some teams took at the start line lighting up social media recently. Fingers crossed that the surf paddle goes ahead this year after it has been cancelled in part or in full for all of the past three editions.
Once again I’ve been called in by the team at the Adventure1 series to put some predictions onto paper. As I said from the onset, this will be the most competitive Australian race in 2018, which makes predictions this time around much trickier. A lot can happen over 48 hours of racing, and with a field this deep it is almost inevitable that at least one team is going to have a bad day out.
So with all of the above disclaimers established, here goes. Looking at the start list, I’d hazard to suggest that it is a two horse race for top spot on the podium between Thunderbolt AR (1) and Peak Adventure (3). Both have deep experience in this race, are fast and are made of competitors who have previously won GeoQuest before. Thunderbolt AR perhaps has a slight edge at this stage as the form team, being the reigning champions at GeoQuest along with a recent win at X-marathon, the first race in the Adventure1 series. The team also has the advantage of a consistent line up over the past year and recently finished second at a close fought world series race in Africa. Questions have been asked about their recovery from that race, but given they were “only” out for three nights, I suspect they will be firing on all cyclinders at GeoQuest. Peak Adventure on paper are perhaps a slightly faster team but will be missing the gun navigational experience of Rob Preston who is away racing a world series event in China. Don’t be surprised to see this team jump to the front early and look to hold off the chasing pack.
Aside from these two teams, you could throw a blanket over another 8 teams that are in the race for a coveted top 5 mixed premier place. These teams include Percival Property (3), Outer Limits (5), Rogue (6), Mont AR (7), #CBRAR (8), BMX Bandits (9), Traces of Nuts (14) and Tiger Adventure (22). Realistically, any of these teams could crack a top 5 with a number of them being a podium chance, and I suspect it will come down to who has the cleanest race that will decide positions.
The Tiger Adventure team headed by Gary Sutherland (not to be confused with one of the other 11 Tiger teams on the roster – it’s hard work keeping track of them all!) have reformed with a very similar team to the one that finished top 10 at the XPD world champs last year and will lead the charge hunting down Thunderbolt and Peak Adventure. Percival Property are racing premier mixed this year after taking a win in the men’s division last year, and finishing third place overall. Living on the NSW north coast at Port Macquarie, they may have some local advantage and have been training hard. You can read a bit about their back story racing as a team of two couples on Sleepmonsters here. Mont AR are a Canberra based team with a lot of firepower, particularly on the running legs and I expect to see a steady improvement through the ranks as this particular team line up gets more and more races under their belt. Team #CBCRC also have a very strong line up and probably punched a little under their weight at X-Marathon – I would expect them to do well over a 48 hour GeoQuest course, again with deep experience in the race. BMX Bandits, Rogue and Traces of Nuts are all stalwart teams on the Australian AR scene with the necessary experience to finish well. I don’t have as much information on team Outer Limits, but captain Sam Stedman has the pedigree to push it at the front of the race.
One of the teams I’m most excited about seeing in competition is the all female Mountain Designs Wild Women team (39). They have been bolstered with the addition of AR legend Alina McMaster and I expect them to take a number of scalps (including all of the all male teams) on their way to a high top 10 finish. The all male division is not as deep this year, but I’ll throw team Wild & Co (37) out there as a good bet, with perhaps Midnight Sun (34) as experienced contenders to chase them down. As always, these predictions are so hard to make, particularly in such a competitive field. No doubt there will be a dark horse team to sneak into the top 10 ranks outside of those mentioned above.
One interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed is that a number of teams are now entering with a consistent line up from previous races. I think the Adventure1 series has a solid part to play in this as teams like Thunderbolt AR, Peak Adventure, #CBRAR and BMX Bandits chase series points. I’ve always felt that one of the biggest determinants of a team’s success is an ability to keep a constant line up between races so that the group as a whole develops a collective experience. This lets them learn what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are, how to handle difficult situations when they arise and how to push it as a competitive unit when things are going well based on past history together. Again, I think this all plays in to this being another highly competitive year for GeoQuest.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the GeoQuest Half competition. A tough event in of itself, there are in fact just as many half teams as full teams racing at GeoQuest this year. Unfortunately, I just don’t know enough about the half teams to make any insightful predictions on how that competition will play out, which alone should make it a fascinating race to follow.
Tracking will be live via the GeoQuest website in the lead up to the event. With a big purse available for the top team in the Adventure 1 series, this race will play a massive role in determining which team takes big steps towards claiming that prize. If nothing else, every team heading to Sawtell will be guaranteed an adventure and, for those looking for it, some very competitive racing as well.