Cairns Adventure Festival 2012
A MONSTER MONSOONAL deluge forced the postponement of Australia’s oldest mountain bike race – the RRR (Rural, Rainforest and Reef) – but aside from this muddy hiccup, the recent Cairns Adventure Festival was a big success, with participant numbers doubling across all major events.
The multisport festival turned two this year, with the marquee event changing over from a Challenge triathlon to an official Ironman. Proceedings kicked off with the screening of the popular Cairns Adventure Film Festival before the action got underway through a series of races.
The original program forced people to choose between the legendary RRR mountain bike race or the Hekili Great Barrier Reef Ocean Challenge, a 40km downwind paddle, with both events taking place on the opening Sunday. Torrential rain made the RRR course unrideable, however, and the historic race – which will turn 22 years old this year – was rescheduled to Sunday 8 July.
No amount of rain was going to stop the Hekili Great Barrier Reef Ocean Challenge, though, and the Iron-length downwind paddle from Palm Cove to Port Douglas took place with a 17 to 20-knot south-easterly pushing 202 battling paddlers along the Coral Coast.
The ocean endurance race, the longest of its kind in Australia, features solo paddlers, pairs and teams in both outrigger craft and surf skis. Legendary paddler Dean Gardener – recently returned from the Moloka’i Challenge over in Hawaii, where he took fourth spot in the world’s premier paddling event – nailed first place.
The festival also featured the Quicksilver Reef Swim on Green Island Swim, an open-ocean event across 1.5km and 3km that takes place on the idyllic isle, a 45-minute boat trip from Cairns city. Strong winds and sizeable chop meant conditions were tougher than in last year’s race, but the 1.5km event saw a ding-dong tussle between favourite Pete Jacobs and young Melbournian triathlete Josh Rix, with the Rix stealing the victory.
Jacobs got his own taste of victory in the 70.3 event on the festival’s closing day, however, absolutely nailing the half-Ironman race. Line honours in the full Ironman went to Queenslander David Dellow, who beat the much-fancied Kiwi Cameron Brown to the finish line in a time of 8 hours and 15 minutes under a blazing Tropical North Queensland sun. Fellow Queenslander Carrie Lester won the women’s event after Rebekah Keat, who led until the 6-kilometre mark on the run, had to withdraw with a torn soleus.
An exciting backdrop to the race was provided by the ever-entertaining two-time Ironman world champion Chris ‘Macca’ Mccormack. Disappointed by the news that he’d missed out on an Olympic spot on the eve of the Cairns Ironman, Macca kept journalists entertained all week by feeding them comments about Lance Armstrong, basically calling out the seven-time Tour de France winner turned born-again triathlete.
Armstrong comprehensively answered any doubts people might have cast on his ability to be highly competitive across all three stages of a triathlon, by winning Ironman 70.3 Hawaii during the same weekend as the Cairns Ironman was contested, setting a blistering pace and breaking a course record previously held by McCormack.
While Macca was under par in Cairns, having concentrated on his Olympic dream for the past year at the expense of his long-distance fitness, his ninth spot was enough to validate his ticket to the World Championsships in Kona, where the stage is now perfectly set for a likely showdown with Armstrong in October.
Meanwhile, entries have been reopened for the RRR, so if you want to have a crack the oldest mountain bike race in the country, you can sign up for the classic 40km race or take on the new 70km route (which still incorporates the historic 40km section).