Adventurethon Australia are Top Dogs and ARWS Oceania Champions
Press Release / 10.11.2023
Top Dog 24 was the fitting name for the new adventure race from Wild&Co, staged in Canberra and the Capital Territory and hosting the 2023 Adventure Racing World Series Oceania Championship.
Fifty-two teams arrived at the Pavilion at the Stromlo Forest Park, home to some of Australia’s best mountain bike trails, which the racers would enjoy as part of the weekend’s racing. There were full and half-course (Little Dog) options to suit different levels of experience, and additional ‘championship checkpoints’ for those wanting to race for the ARWS Oceania title.
After a tough race it was Team Adventurethon Australia who were the first ever AR Top Dogs and claimed the Oceania title, along with a free entry to 2024 Adventure Racing World Championships in Ecuador!
On a weekend of cool and overcast conditions teams raced a course including gravel road and mountain bike trails, river and lake paddling, trekking and navigation. There was a cave checkpoint and an archery challenge and teams had to stay together from start to finish.
The Tog Dog 24 teams covered 120km (150km with the Championship Checkpoints) and their course took them west towards the NSW border. From the opening trek there were big views of the Murrumbidgee River valley and a 12km kayak along the river was stage two of the race.
Race Director Chris Dixon said, “I was worried there would be a lot of carrying due to low water, but recent rains made it an enjoyable paddle. There were some exciting rapids and in places racers had to find a way through the rocky riverbed, at one point doing a ‘kayak limbo’ under a fallen tree trunk.”
The biggest stage of the race followed with a 40km ride over the Blue Range and the first championship checkpoint was just over the state border. This required an uphill hike-a-bike to collect and 10 teams opted to go for the longer championship course, the rest taking a shorter and easier route to the next checkpoint.
The ride took teams back to the Murrumbidgee via a foot rogaine at Cotter’s River, then past the start area at Stromlo into Canberra, where the Top Dog teams join the shorter ‘Little Dog’ route.
This included another rogaine in the National Arboretum and for the Top Dog teams a spectacular night paddle past the illuminated capital buildings on Lake Burley Griffin. (The Little Dog teams mostly completed this in daylight.)
Those on the championship course had further to go, paddling under Commonwealth Avenue Bridge to find a checkpoint on the shore of King’s Park. Both courses then finished with a final ride on the Stromlo trails in the quiet hours of Sunday morning to reach the finish line.
The first finishers were the ‘Little Dog’ teams, and there was a close race with the lead changing on the final stages.
First to finish (overall and male winners) were Last Minute Buzzer Beaters (Derrick Cant/Adrian Harper) in 06 hours 49 minutes 29 seconds. The pair were racing together for the first time and only met up at the race start! On the finish line Adrian said, “We lost about 15 minutes looking for CP X and had to race hard to make up the difference on the way back for the win.”
Finishing just over 2 minutes later for second overall and as first premier mixed team were Lambeth Racing (Kieran Macdonell & Clare Lonergan). They aimed to finish before dark, and were very happy to do that!
Third, only 6 minutes later, were Tiger Adventure Racing Maniacs (Monika Lee & Andrew Slattery). Monika has been one of the most prolific racers this year, competing in Terra Nova, Rogue Raid, Explore Gippsland, Hells Bells, Wildside Adventure and now Top Dog 24!
The fastest team on the Top Dog course were ‘Faff Attack’ (Minh-Tam Nguyen and Mark Van Der Ploeg), finishing in 15 hours 55 minutes 05 seconds. Team Resultz Racing (Robert Joford and Michael Reed) were quicker, but portaged their kayak on the Lake Burley Griffin stage, which was against the rules. A one hour penalty pushed them into second place.
A total of 22 teams finished the Top Dog course in male, female and mixed categories, and in the whole race only 3 teams retired, with all the others crossing the finish line.
The Oceania Championship race wasn’t such a close contest as Adventurethon Australia dominated and lead from start to finish. They crossed the line in 16 hours 39 minutes 18 seconds to take the title and win the big prize of a place the Ecuador World Championships.
The team of Mitch Nissen, Brock Hawke, Narelle Crozier and David Jennings are a very experienced quartet, with many different endurance and multisport events behind them, including GODZone and One Water Race. On the finish line they said, “Great course, it was awesome. We liked the rogaines as they were runnable but the hike a bike was long and hard. But then it wouldn’t be an adventure race without a hike-a-bike!”
In the male category the pair of Stephen Machale and Tommy Doman racing as ‘That’s a Paddlin’ were quickest, despite also getting a one hour penalty for portaging, and in the women’s Championship category the Mountain Designs Wild Women finished in 20.03.01 to record another full course finish.
Speaking after the race Kim Beckinsale thanked the Wild&Co team for getting the new event off the ground. “This enabled us all the opportunity to out on a fantastic adventure around Canberra,” she said. “Wild Women had a wild and wonderful time on the course, especially the white water paddle down the Murrumbidgee River and riding the Stromlo trails.”
Wild&Co will bring the race back to Canberra next year. “I’m excited about the possibilities for racing in the ACT,” said Dixon. “There are so many possibilities for future Top Dog races and we’ll be back bigger and better in 2024!”