The Convict 100 is one of Australia’s longest running mountain bike marathons, and it’s the closest marathon to Sydney, Australia’s most populous city. The hamlet of St Alban’s plays host to the iconic race run by Max Adventure, with riders setting off early in the morning, returning in as little as four hours later, even for the full course, after tackling sections of the Convict Trail and other fire trails, farm roads and back roads in the area.
The funny thing about the Convict 100 is that while it’s a popular marathon, and a good result there is very prestigious – there’s not really any singletrack in the race. And mountain bikers love singletrack. Instead, there are sections of the Convict Trail that may be 3 or 4 metres wide, with just one clear line over the jumble of rocks. Or you may be faced with a myriad of line choices while tackling multiple step ups on a sea of tumbling sandstone ledges. So while you may not be carving corners in the trees, you’ll need to make sure you can tackle the technical elements that punctuate the 97km course in 2023. In 2023 the event falls on Saturday May 6th.
Whule there were a few course changes, National Parks have now granted full access to the 2019 era Convict courses! So in 2023 the full course will run 100km, with 68km and 44km course options too. You can even race the two longer courses on an eMTB if you like, and there are all sorts of categories to enter, from Elite to age groups, singlespeed and cyclocross (gravel). Get all the entry details online. But let’s take a look at the courses for 2023.
Convict 100 100km course
Back as Max Adventure intended, this one is a classic! . The start and finish is in St Albans, and riders head north out of town and into a river crossing on the left soon after. If you’re not first in, expect to be off and running – although this will depend on the water depth. Even so, you may be best to run the sandy exit.
On exit you go left and head south along the river, and head toward Jack’s Track. This is steep, but if you want a top finish, you need to suck it up and hang tough. Over the top the course is undulating on the ridgeline, and is mostly very fast double track with just a couple of sandy corners to catch you out if you’re not aware.
On the descent, you’ll end up heading towards the kayak bridge, with a paddock before and after. There’s a feed station here, and it’s a good time to stock up, as you’re about to climb again. The aid stations have fruit, water, Tailwind Nutrition, lollies and salty potatoe chips. And first aid kits. After the bridge you ascend Sheppards Gully, and over the top the route goes from smooth gravel road to wild double track on the Convict Trail. If you are behind on your nutrition, you’ll start to know about it.
Parts of this section get quite technical, with one possible line, and even a couple of sections you may need to get off and walk, unless you’re a front runner duking it out for the win. This is Sydney sandstone riding at its finest. Find your line, look up and commit! You’ll exit this section and head towards 10 mile Hollow after a fast descent – but don’t miss the aid station above the descent!
Climbing out past Clares Bridge, you’ll then carry on going up. Things start to get a little more technical again, but that is wholly dependant on recent grading on the route. You’ll notice that there will be one good line, and in the sections where it plateaus off a bit, it can be insanely fast in a good group of 3 or 4 riders here, riding at warm speed in a blur of Gymea Lillies.
The route drops down through some rougher sections before a sharp left onto good quality fire trail. This next section may feel like death by a thousand cuts, with rolling climbs that continually get steeper, before the 3rd aid station. The ridge line eventually fades at the top of Blue Hill, with a fast and loose descent back to the valley, and a drag race of just under 15km to the finish on farm trails, double track and dirt road.
Convict 100 66km course
This one looks like a great route, being one big lap without one river crossing and the kayak bridge. You will match the same 30+ km as the 100km route, tackling Jacks Track and the Kayak Bridge and the climb up Sheppards Gully.
This route takes on parts of the Convict trail, but before the descent to 10 Mile Hollow, you will divert onto 8 Mile track. You’ll stay on the ridge line with a bit more climbing and descending, before a fast drop into Wrights Creek and a burn to the finish line.
Convict 100 44km course
Short and sweet, this route is perfect for those new to mountain biking and riding off road, packing in some of the Convict 100 key experiences! The first 33km are the same as the other events, heading north out of St Albans and towards the river crossing. Fire back towards Jacks Track and find your rhythm on the climb.
Enjoy the ridgeline riding with amazing views across the region, before flowing down the descent to the kayak bridge, and a charge back up the river to St Albans.
Why ride the Convict 100?
As one of Australia’s oldest marathon races, the Convict 100 has seen a lot of top riders take the start line and claim line honours. But it’s also been a stand out event for a lot of mountain bikers, and a social gathering as well.
Away from your time against the clock, it’s easy to make a weekend of the Convict 100, while not neglecting your weekend duties with other friends and family. As a Saturday event, you can plan around an early finish at work on Friday, and drive out to St Albans to camp. There are other accommodation options, or camping tends to run at $10 per vehicle. Set up, kick back, and know that you don’t have to get up at a crazy hour to make the start line, or wait in the ferry queue!
The Convict 100 may be low on singletrack, but it’s got 3 courses so you can find your challenge, and it tackles a route that is historic and quintessentially Sydney-centric. From the landscape to trail features, you wouldn’t think you’re near any other capital. If you’ve done the Convict before, why not come back and test yourself on the new course?