By Ali Deane, October 2017.
The stage was set. There was a new course, new leg order and a few new ‘All Stars’, trained up and ready to race. The wind was up, but the sun was shining down. Augusta was seriously turning it on for the annual pilgrimage of adventure racers for the 12thrunning of the Augusta Adventure Fest.
Amidst the proceedings of the world’s biggest adventure race, another battle was going down – the battle of the State of Origin teams trophy. Inaugurated in 2016, this was the modern-day version of the Tri Nations. Incredibly exciting racing was witnessed at the front, with team transitions often within seconds of each other. Team VIC seemed cursed after paddler Russ Goulding suffered a blow to the front of his ski, and Cooper Jessen had a broken bike chain moments before the starting horn blew. But they managed to keep the pressure on, as did Team QLD just one minute off the pace at the finish line.
Defending Augusta Adventure Race champions Reece Baker, Mike Lori, Simon Huitenga and Reece Tucknott showed us what they had once again, snatching each of the four fastest leg cash prizes and keeping the State of Origin Trophy in the west, in a total race time of just 3 hours, 26 minutes, 28 seconds. Team VIC finished 17 minutes later (3:43:08), and Team QLD (3:44:07).Team Smartstyle Bathrooms, 2016 State of Origin winners, also added to the excitement at the pointy end, placing secnd overall in 3:40:15.
Reece Baker, who is thecurrent state ski title-holder and current mixed double ski national champion, gives us his account of the day:
“I started the race 50-60m behind the lead pack so I had to work really hard to paddle past all the paddlers on the river to catch up. After the crazy first kilometre the next 5km was pretty standard where everyone was in a pack.
Leaving the river mouth, amongst the confusion of the moving water, I moved to the front and got a small gap on the field. I choose to race on the inside of the reef which was a mistake. The outer line seemed much faster and I hit my rudder on a shallow bit of reef. This made my rudder jam and I had to jump off the ski to bend it back.
After the mistake of the reef section I caught the lead pack and went to the lead into the turning buoy off Flinders Bay. From there I was able to get some clean water for the ocean race back to the final turning maker and into the transition to hand over to Mike (Lori).”
Mike Lori is in theCanadian triathlon team. He said, “I was really looking forward to this year’s run leg. Similar to last year it had rock hopping and beach running, a few hard hills with the addition of some early single trails to change it up a bit. Reece had done a great job of getting me out of T1 with a lead on the other runners. This also had me a little nervous as I had no idea where the other runners were and if I was gaining or losing time. The first 7km was single track and hilly road and trail plus a small stretch of beach and rocks so I knew I could go fast and was averaging about 3:30/km pace. The course was hugging the beautiful coastline with plenty of very technical sections along the rocks and sand. My favourite parts were some of the steep descents and running under low lying bush. It’s pretty amazing some of the areas they were able to include in the course! I was able to keep a good tempo for the next 3km. With 2km to go, my legs were dying, I missed a step and landed with my knee into a rock but the adrenaline kicked in and I just got up and finished it. I was happy with my race and happy to tag off to Simon (Huitenga) who I knew would crush a technical swim. I loved the course and thought it was a true test over versatile terrain.
Simon Huitenga, who is in the Australian national long-distance swim team, said, “I was really excited about the swim for this year’s race, the race course had changed to an ocean start on the beach swim around a buoy and cut back through the inlet to finish at the boat ramp. Add a 20-knot breeze into this and an incoming tide. and it was going to make for a challenging day!
The team was off to a good start with Reece off the ski first and giving Mike a clean set of heels into the run. Mike tagged me first off into the swim with a fairly solid lead, I made my way out to the first buoy and got a couple of dolphin dives in before I could start swimming. It was a little bit shallow and with chunks of reef scattered around so I took it a bit easier and I wasn’t that keen on getting a face full of rock. Once I hit the first buoy it got a little deeper and I started to pick up the pace. I hit the second turn buoy and started eyeing off a gap in the reef that would allow me to swim the ocean side of the reef. Once I was behind the reef the conditions were pushing me along until I spotted the turning buoy in the inlet and made my way through the surf, and by this stage the waves were behind me so I got a couple of waves which took me into the mouth of the inlet then it was a sprint and fight against the current to get to the final turn buoy off the boat ramp.”
Reece Tucknott is a national and international mountain bike racer who enjoyed his day in Augusta. He said, “Following a strong result in 2016 and also lining up against some strong competition, it is fair to say that there was a fair amount of nervous energy running through my body as I stood in transition waiting for the passing of the bib and timing chip from Simon. Receiving only very minor changes in 2017, I knew the bike course would put me through my paces as I covered the 28kms as fast as possible. A super fast, yet challenging course starts off on various fire trails around the Augusta area before arriving at the bottom of what some would describe as a brick wall. A long, challenging, sandy climb is where I tried to consolidate as much as possible on my tough competition to give the team the best time buffer possible as we approached the finish. Leading from the start of the leg always makes it hard to judge pace but I knew I had to give it my all and it didn’t come easily, but after riding through some spectacular scenery and trails it was time to rack the bike, don the running shoes and make our way to the finish line. Crossing the line for the win really topped off what had been a great weekend and a great event, and I look forward to returning in 2018!