At the start of this year, we published a post outlining the ingredients that make for a great marathon MTB race. One of the stand out components is the route – it needs to be challenging and interesting, and you’d also expect there to be singletrack. So how come, the Convict 100 has no singletrack, and it is still really popular? And you might note we listed it as a stand out race for our team.
We also list easy logistics – the Convict 100 involves getting there via a car ferry in the early morning for a lot of people, and it can only take about 15 cars at a time. And St Albans is a tiny town, that gets overcrowded very quickly when about 1000 mountain bikers and their friends rock up. It’s not an easy one to stay nearby for unless you camp or get really lucky with accommodation. So what is it about the Convict 100 that draws riders back?
A closer look at the Convict 100
Having run for over 10 years, clearly the Convict 100 must be doing something right then. It’s the marathon race that Sydney’s mountain bikers can call their own. The race is almost entirely on sandstone, a trail surface you cannot avoid as a mountain biker in the greater Sydney region. With sandstone ledges to climb and descend as riders make their way along the Old Convict Road, it does tend to play into the hands of riders who train on similar terrain.
These older trails, and indeed the Old Convict Road, offer few line choices at points, and a myriad of options at others. They change with rainfall, and with drought. They do not stay the same, which is quite different to the manicured trails that are being built around the country and the globe. The Convict 100 demands riders pay attention to new lines, new opportunities, and changing conditions. The riding is rugged and fast, ready to reward those who are willing to risk it, and punish those who are lazy in their line choices. The Convict 100 route is a continual challenge.
There’s something to be said for little St Albans too. With one of the oldest still-running pubs in Australia, the township would be barely on the map for many who visit the bar post-race, but undoubtedly everyone who visits will be happy they did.
Even the drive out and the ferry trip adds to the race. Part of the joy of mountain biking is the ability to travel to new places, and see things you might not otherwise. Many Sydney locals would never head out beyond Wisemans Ferry to St Albans – it’s another 20km up a small road and winding road. But the village is beautiful, and the camaraderie before and after the race is fantastic. Riders spill throughout the beer garden, waiting for their meals and presentation. It is one of the best settings for the end of a race for all Australian marathons.
So although the Convict 100 doesn’t have any singletrack, and it isn’t that easy to get to, it is one of the best races on the calendar. It takes you into typical Australian settings, along trails carved by convicts through quintessential Sydney bush settings. From start to finish, the Convict 100 takes you on a trail through iconic New South Wales scenery. And while the route has now reversed, it gives you a new challenge to beat your time from a previous year.
So will we see you at the 2017 Convict 100? It’s not a conventional marathon – but it’s a whole lot of fun and a great bike race.
Entries are open now! Make sure you’re free on 6th May and get your entry in.
Oh yeah – the Convict 100 has a canoe bridge too…