With the first round of the 2016 XCO World Cup landing in Cairns on the 24th April, a plan was hatched earlier this year to head up to Tropical North Queensland to support our XCO racer, Sebastian Jayne, on race day and then get a few good days of training in the legs too. Taking a few days away from the real world isn’t easy for everyone, but the Anzac Day public holiday reduced the load – and Sebastian Jayne, Justin Morris, myself, and photographer Robert Conroy all had the time, and inclination, to spend a little more time in the tropics.
Alas, we know what they say about the best made plans… poor Seb broke his hand one week before the World Cup, which would not just sideline him but keep him at home in Bright.
That wasn’t going to stop the rest of us though, but it did take some of the fun out. It’s one thing to go and watch a World Cup – but it is another thing again to go and support a team mate racing his first elite World Cup.
Packing up and hauling out
But come Monday morning, the racing was done, taxis were rushing to the airports with hungover riders and bike boxes, and we were set to pack up the Subaru Outback and head up to the Aterthon Tablelands. The drive isn’t long, and we had planned to ride in Smithfield that day but figured giving the event crew some space would probably be worthwhile – we could drop back to Smithfield later on.
We had been staying at Cool Waters Caravan Park in Brinsmead. With easy parking, bike washing and bike storage – it was pretty spot on. Finding the right place to stay with a mountain bike and other mountain bikers isn’t always that straight-forward. But a ground level family cabin meant we had lots of room, easy access, and a quiet night sleep each night.
Possibly the biggest bonus was Elva’s Cafe, right on sight. They make an awesome coffee, which proved to be the kickstart we needed.
Mountain biking in Tropical North Queensland
Far from a structured training camp, we mostly set out to ride in three or more rad places. The riding in Tropical North Queensland is varied, but it is also spread out.
The Smithfield trails are well known, and with about 60km of marked trail there that was going to be on Tuesday’s agenda. There are easy trails in the grassland behind James Cook University, older trails from the trail head near the bungy jumping, and obioucly there’s a current World Cup level downhill and cross-country trail. But, there are lots more trails there too, including plenty of fun and challenging singletrack that The Crocodile Trophy has made use of since 2012.
But Atherton would not be missed either. Both Justin and I have been through Atherton during the Crocodile Trophy in 2011 and 2012. But those two times we stormed through the Rifle Club and up the Mt Baldy dirt road climb on the way to Koombaloomba Dam or Irvinebank. If you did that now, you would be bypassing over 70km of purpose-built singletrack. So now, the Croc Trophy stays in Atherton for a few stages, sampling the trails, and some of the other routes on the Tablelands.
The Tablelands also have plenty of sights and other small towns. The Lakes Loop, a swim at Lake Eacham, and the idea of a pizza at Yungaburra were also very attractive. The truth is we could spend about a week just around Atherton, with rides in the MTB park, rides to Tinaroo and over the range, rides to Herberton or Irvinebank, and of course some dirt road exploring.
With the RRR approaching in June, we thought it would also be worth heading north. There would be an option for a quick ride at Davies Creek near Mareeba, and maybe lunch at Mt Uncle Distillery, but seeing as the RRR is the oldest mountain bike race in Australia – with its 26th running in 2016 – we figured it would be good to take a look at some of the route. Especially seeing as our mate from the Croc, Steve Rankin, runs guided tours on the main test piece of the route, the Bump Track.
The Bump Track is pretty special, as it takes you from the farmland above Port Douglas, down the old access road from the Port. Port Douglas was the only port for the gold and tin mining, and forestry, before Cairns was on the map. The Bump Track was the road that bullock trains took onto the Tablelands. Steve’s ancestors ran bullock trains on the Bump Track, so we knew he would be the right guy to get a look at the trail with.
After that, we would head back to Cairns – there’s plenty to do there, but more than likely we’d be packing up for a direct flight home and back to reality. We knew we would be leaving lots of riding untouched, but the trails aren’t going anywhere, so there’s always time to go back.
We’ll have a feature from each day rolling out over the weekend and into Monday. Check back to see them
You can get lots more details on riding in Tropical North Queensland from RideCairns.