The twelfth edition of the Rogue Raid adventure race is run and done with team Thought Sports taking out the overall title, putting themselves into a commanding position in the Australian national adventure racing rankings.
The Rogue Raid adopts a unique rogaine format, where teams race for a full 24 hours in an attempt to collect the highest score possible over a series of trekking, mountain biking and kayaking stages. The 2021 edition took place on Lake Wyaralong and the surrounding hills, including course highlights such as the Mt Joyce ridgeline and the now famous hike-a-bike over Mt Crumpet. A total of 20 mixed teams of four competitors took to the start line vying for important series points with the Rogue Raid serving as the second race in the national Adventure1 series. They were joined by another 96 athletes racing in the pairs category, making this one of the largest 24 hour fields in the race’s history.
In the lead up to the race, all eyes were on the top five teams expected to fill out the podium steps. A review of the pre-race predictions can be found here, but in a nut shell the race included all three previous Australian national adventure racing champions (Alpine Avengers, Thought Sports and Thunderbolt) along with the consistently competitive Rogue Adventure and Tri Adventure teams. With the temptation of the challenge to try and sweep all the check points laid out for teams, the initial racing was as fast and furious as expected. These five teams along with a number of the top Tiger Adventure teams effectively collected every check point across the initial four stages which involved a hike, kayak, hike and another kayak stage, bringing teams in just as the sun started to set and things got tricky.
As expected, it was the paddling strength and speed of team Alpine Avengers that lead the way off the stage 4 kayak leg. They were followed just 20 minutes later by team Thought Sports with Rogue, Tri Adventure and Thunderbolt another 10 to 15 minutes further back, all with full scorecards. But it was on the biggest trekking stage of the race where things were blown apart. Teams started to make critical navigational errors in the dark and tricky terrain. The Alpine Avengers were first to drop a control, picking the wrong spur and missing check point (CP) 29. At the same time, Thought Sports made an uncharacteristic parallel error, following the wrong creekline on route to CP28, losing valuable time in relocating themselves and correcting course. Team Rogue had trouble early on with CP19 and were joined by Tri Adventure in an energy sapping mistake coming off the ridge from CP30. Generally team Thunderbolt had the best of the navigation and the cleanest run, notably opting to tackle the trek stages in opposite direction to the other top teams, albeit generally moving at a slightly slower pace. A full replay of the GPS tracking can be found here.
What soon became apparent to the teams was that they were now behind their planned schedules and that they would need to start dropping check points. All of a sudden, check point values came into play as teams began to make strategic decisions on which controls to collect and which they could afford to miss. Coming off Stage 5, Thought Sports were the only leading team to still have swept the course although they were now 35 minutes behind the Avengers with the other teams trailing slightly further back in both time and points, yet still within grasping distance of the title: everything was left to play for.
Heading in to Stage 6, teams climbed on their mountain bikes for the first time in the race. At only 70km long, what the mountain bike lacked in distance it certainly made up for in technical and navigational difficulty. The stage included navigation through the vague farming tracks of the Overflow Estate property with a number of cross country options, the maze of trails cut by dirt bikes in the Queensland Moto Park and finished with a ride around the northern shoreline trail of Lake Wyaralong and through the single track network of the Mt Joyce Mountain Bike Park. But hidden amongst those challenges was the much discussed 5km hike-a-bike section that took teams over Mt Crumpet and connected the stage together.
In designing the course, I always wanted to feature the Mt Crumpet ridgeline which is used as part of the Scenic Rim 100km Ultra Trail race. Piecing it together, it was the logical way to connect the Moto Park and the Overflow Estate property passing through a section of private farm not normally accessible to the public. With plenty of warning, teams were certainly prepared for the task at hand. Indeed, in the end over half the field took on the optional challenge of the hike-a-bike which was quite surprising. I honestly thought only a dozen teams or so would take on the hike-a-bike, and I thought it would be a profitable venture points wise for only around half of those. In hindsight, a very sound strategy could be to sweep the entire course up until the end of stage 5, collect the four bike controls on offer and then head directly back to race HQ for a mad dash for optimal points over the final stages.
It was a long, tough night for all teams, not just the leaders, as they picked their way over the hike-a-bike which on average took teams 2-3 hours. By this stage even Thought Sports were dropping check points. With the Alpine Avengers out ahead on course and the other teams opting for different controls, it really was anyone’s race to be had when teams came back into race HQ with just an optional kayak leg and trekking stage on offer. From here we saw a number of different strategies play out. Team Rogue decided to focus more of their efforts on check points in the mountain bike park during the proceeding stage followed by a truncated paddle leg. Teams Tri Adventure, Alpine Avengers and eventually Thunderbolt decided to do as much of the kayak leg as possible whilst dropping the final trek leg completely. Meanwhile team Thought Sports picked the eye out of the kayak leg, just collecting three high value check points before a mad dash to run down some high value check points on the final trek leg.
In the end, it was Thought Sport’s strategy and willingness to push to the very last moments of the time allowed that netted them a win. They came in just 30 points ahead of Thunderbolt in second place, with the Alpine Avengers rounding out the podium just another 30 points behind (effectively a difference of just one check point separating podium places). Thunderbolt must be commended on an outstanding performance. Whilst never quite moving as fast as the other teams, they had the cleanest run navigationally with their work on the Stage 5 trek (collecting all but one 20 point check point) as well as their efforts on the bike stage enough to secure them second place at the Rogue Raid and move them into second overall in the 2021 national rankings – the return of experienced campaigner Hugh Stoddart definitely paying dividends.
Further down the results list, it was team Rogue Adventure in fourth place with Tri Adventure taking out fifth. There were a number of honourable mentions that should go out to the other teams, with the Tiger Adventure Cubs securing sixth place overall despite not getting a mention in the predictions blog when previewing the Tiger teams – certainly they will be a team to keep an eye out for in the future. In the pairs category, it was the all male combination of team Talle that used their paddle strength to take out the win (with a score that would have netted them eighth overall against the Adventure 1 teams) with the mixed pairing of team Off Guard in second and the Wild Women taking out the all female pairs title. In the shorter 6 hour option of the race, it was team Tri Adventure Vintage who triumphed over the other 51 teams, not just winning the all female category but taking out the title overall. A full scorecard of results can be found here.
So with their win at Explore Gippsland and the Rogue Raid, Thought Sports take a commanding lead in the Adventure 1 national series. With two races to go, it’s going to take an upset to knock them off their perch, but we’ve seen it happen before – they still need to finish strongly in the remaining races and anything can, and often does, happen in adventure racing. The results from this second round of racing see Thunderbolt climb one place into second overall and team Rogue slip to third. You can never discount last season’s title holders Alpine Avengers though who will certainly be coming hard for teams over the final races of the season, so there is plenty left to place for.
Once again, the Rogue Raid format has delivered some exciting and strategic adventure racing. The rogaine format pushes teams for the full 24 hours over a navigationally and technically challenging course, while still being accessible at all levels of racing. It should be noted that there were only five DNF teams in field of 68 teams, which is a remarkable completion rate for an adventure race this tough on the ground. All teams should be commended on their efforts, not just the leaders – particularly those crazy enough to take on the now infamous hike-a-bike.
So as the gear gets packed away, the blisters and chaffing heal and the memories of all the pain subside to leave that type 2 fun glow of achievement, it’s time to turn our head to the future Rogue Raid plans. And they are big ones. Next year will see the return of the Raid 100, appropriately labelled the “Northern Rivers” addition. The permits have been submitted, the preliminary course laid out and on the ground course scouting will begin in July. The Raid 100 is the ultimate adventure race rogaine challenge and is certainly not to be missed. We hope to see you all back there soon.