So as the temperature drops, the days get shorter and the endless emails of gear lists start flying back and forth, it can only mean one thing: GeoQuest is back in town. Rightfully billed as Australia’s premier adventure race, GeoQuest is entering its 13th year. Set for the idyllic location of Crescent Head, it is the combination of a linear course through unfamiliar and remote terrain, the length which can often push you into a second night of racing without sleep, the team of 4 format, the incorporation of support crews and the chance to paddle real boats that make this my favourite race on the Australian adventure racing calendar. One not to be missed.
I’m fortunate this year to be racing under the team Rogue banner, but joined by some very experienced GeoQuest campaigners. Brett and Craig Stevens have raced multiple GeoQuests before, including a win back in 2006, and we’ll be joined by top multisport athlete Rachel Cashin who will also be making the trip over from NZ with Craig. Brett and I have been threatening to race together for a while now, so I feel pretty lucky to team up with him in what he claims will be his “last big race ever”. Needless to say I’ll be running scared with such strong team mates, but have been training accordingly. We are also lucky to have a super support crew in Ray and John – I’ve always claimed that racers make the best support crew and this will be no exception I’m sure. In fact, the only person I’ve met who is more pedantic about map marking and preparation than myself is Ray, so it’s great to have these guys on board.
This year’s race is looking to be one of the most competitive ever. The big news is that former world champions Seagate will be making a stop over from their return journey from Expedition Africa to race GeoQuest this year. It would be a brave man to bet against Seagate in any race, however they may not have it all their own way with team Peak Adventure Shotz sure to push them hard, particular in this format of race. These guys have taken the title the last 3 years running under various team names and combinations, but at the core Damon with his 12 years of Geo experience, Rob’s world class navigation and Jarad’s multisport strength will be a strong combination. Rob will also be “fresh” from Expedition Africa the week before, so no excuses there for Seagate. Expect these teams to battle for top honours. Hot on their heels will be podium finishers from the last two years, Outer Limits Adventure Junkies and Mountain Designs. I’ll stick my neck out and back Mountain Designs to fill out the podium this year on the back of their win at XPD in 2013 and their China race fitness earlier this year, however there may be a heavy amount of QLD bias in that prediction.
Cracking a top 10 this year will be no small undertaking with a plethora of strong teams making the trip to the NSW mid north coast this year. Perhaps one team capable of giving the above mentioned teams a good run for their money is team Off Our Nuts, whose members have graced the Geo podium before. Other experienced outfits including Shackleton, Traces of Nuts and Cyclezone Mooloolaba should feature towards the front end of the field, and along with the two Tiger Adventure teams, who have been logging some dedicated training, would make a healthy top 10 prediction list. A look over the all male teams reveals a bunch of names with ample previous GeoQuest experience, including DASH, SA Ambulance, Midnight Sun, Rusty Ironmen, Quality Nude Time and Muppets, however I don’t know enough about these teams to make a call on line honours in this category.
And what am I expecting from this year’s race? Well, I’ll call it now that the 2014 GeoQuest course is going to be a long hard race. With such a strong field, the fact that last year’s race was one of the shortest GeoQuest courses ever and with this being a non-XPD year, my feeling is that Bycroft is going to post a particularly gruelling course this year (something reminiscent of 2012 when only 6 teams managed to finish the full course). Expect the race to start with the traditional ocean paddle where the top teams look to establish themselves early with carnage at the back of the pack if there is a tricky swell.
Packrafting with the bikes makes a return after a three year hiatus. Whilst I’m not a particular fan of these legs (more because of the bunch of additional gear one’s required to bring down including inflatable boats, pumps, split paddles, straps, etc) they are one of the more memorable features of each year’s course. I’ve often had conversations with mates that have run along the lines of “was that the year we had to build a raft out of 8 tubes and 4 planks of wood and paddle it across a lake or the year we had to swim with our bikes on an airbed for 2km up a river against the tide?”
So there you have it – my form guide and predictions for the 2014 GeoQuest. Of course this should all be taken with a grain of salt as there is always a dark horse team that flies under the radar or the chance that a top team doesn’t make it to the finish or possibly even the start line. A lot has to go right for a good result in a big race like this. Live tracking will be available here. Team Rogue are racing as team #4 with racing to start Saturday June 7th.