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Race Report from Team AROC Mountain Designs – Mountain Designs GeoQuest 2005

Team AROC which includes Tasmanians Matt Dalziel and Kris Clauson, recently won Australias biggest adventure race - the Geoquest. The winning team of the Geo Half, Shackleton's team, also sported 2 Tasmanians; Alexis Bull and Stuart McFadzean.

This years Geoquest was held about halfway up Australia’s east coast near Port Macquarie at a place called Bonny Hill. As Australia’s premier adventure race the Geoquest draws together competitors from all around the country as well as a few brave Kiwis. The format is teams of 4, paddling, trekking and mtbing for 48hrs, with some tire tubing thrown in this year. The tubing proved to be a major focus of the race for many teams with a lot of designing and speculating before the race start. We first experimented with our tubes in Manly after jumping off the plane from Hobart (after it landed). However all we really learnt was that wrapping a tube in Glad Wrap and riding it kickboard style wasn’t gonna cut it. We ended up slapping a raft together on Friday morning before the briefing, and I must admit I was a little skeptical as to its prowess.

The race kicked off at 7:30 on Saturday morning with a paddle through the surf. Tom and I got swamped getting into the boat and then lost the hand pump that I had just got out to a breaking wave. With no chance of finding it we paddled on with a boat full of water with Tom making further contributions along the way. After the slow start to the paddle we jumped to 2nd when Landrover missed an obvious shortcut to the first checkpoint and then with the water emptied from our boats we flew past team Mountain Designs to finish the leg 1st.

We held our lead on the trek up the steep 400m North Brother before Landrover caught up to us on the way down to the tubing section. On the way down the mtn the anticipation of the subsequent tubing section inspired Matt into song - his now famous ‘Born to Tube’. It was this musical masterpiece that fuelled us through the tubing section in record time, helped or perhaps hindered by our sleek craft. By the end of the tubing were once again alone at the front with a lead we continued to build on slowly through out most of the race.

But the tubing didn’t end there, Oh no, we had to carry the rafts a full 7km back to headquarters! A leg we dubbed the ‘Death March’ as it felt like we were carry a casket.

Leg 2 started with an mtb along some really nice single track which in turn bought us to the swim. We waded and swam a few hundred meters across a lakey lagoon to fetch a boat which we then paddled back, loaded our bikes aboard and swam and paddled it back again. We then deposited our bikes and once again climbed aboard our trusty raft for the final tubing section. The thing that stuck in my nose from this leg is truly incredible smell emanating from Tom’s posterior. Unfortunately Tom was near the back of the raft and despite all its graceful waterlines, the slight tail breeze was still outdoing us. A short run down the beach saw us back at HQ for the Leg 3 which wasn’t revealed until we’d finished leg 2. This meant we had to mark up the maps in transition.

A long mtb started leg 3 and took us into the night, there were some very steep hills which were a struggle to even walk up. An unrestrained act of kindness saw us move a small friendly snake off the track so it wouldn’t be squashed by the rest of the field. The ride took us along some great cliffs with awesome views, but we couldn’t really see a great deal in the dark, just a few far off lights and the torchlight disappearing into the void below. A puncture on my behalf put a brief halt to proceedings. Then a section of tricky nav and we were at the start of the rogaine section.

Most of the checkpoints on the rogaine were pretty easy but one was a right pain in the ass. We had to bash along a creek looking for a junction but the problem was we couldn’t tell where the creek was, it kept disappearing and only made its presence known every now and then with a small soak in the otherwise flat and featureless terrain. The main highlight of the rogaine was however the abseil, a nice drop with a great view, except is was still dark for us. Once back to our bikes it was but a short ride back to HQ for the final leg of the race.

Leg 4 required support crews to drive teams about 60km to a drop where we’d start racing once again. With 1hrs timeout for the drive and 20mins compulsory rest before leaving we had thought we’d have a hot shower before we left. Sadly it was not to be as just getting ready to go took us the whole 20min. We enjoyed the drive though, first stuffing our faces with real food before slipping into a satiated slumber.

Leg 4 began with a 25km trek, a section which proved to be the most demanding of the race, mainly due to one very troublesome valley. We spend 2hrs making our way a mere 2km to 2 checkpoint located in the bottom of a gorge like valley. It would have been truly spectacular in the daylight, even in the dark its was quite impressive as we picked our way up down and around cliffs, up the creek and through the bush.

Daylight caught us near the bottom of a 500m descent of yet another big hill and nearing the end of the trek. With the end of the race in sight and a lead of about 2hrs we were starting to look forward to the finish. Another short 21km mtb saw us back into our kayaks for the 2nd and last paddling leg. The boats felt so fast! We must’ve become accustomed to paddling tire tubes because these things felt like rockets. We paddled hard for the first hour or so before we calmed down a bit, just in time for a checkpoint and a very convenient portage. A bit of shallow water after the portage almost became our undoing as Alina played princess and insisted on being carried across the sandbar while Tom then wanted to paddle the boat like a surfboard. Luckily Alina kept the whip cracking and we were soon all back in line steaming toward the finish once more.

A rather relaxed transition saw us into the last 7km run and the last section of the race. At the final checkpoint I was finally relieved of the stressful job of carrying the control card. We enjoyed all the beach scenery as we approached the finish line. Our finishing time was somewhere around 29hours. The occasion was such that Matt almost broke into song once more, but was struck down by a dash of stage fright. So it was hot showers and a team sleep before lashing out for a night on the town.

Matt did find his voice in the presentation the following day and treated the crowd to a heartfelt rendition of ‘Born to Tube’. The video will be on sale soon.


Kris Clauson






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