Course Description

The Shimano Gravel Muster takes us deep into the outback – where roads disappear into a shimmering horizon with a cloudless blue sky overhead and the rolling red earth beneath your tyres. This is a landscape of subtle changes and brutal reality, where men and women become heroes in the dust or succumb to the unforgiving landscape in a slow demise.

This is a race through the very heart of our country.

STAGE SUMMARY

Each day includes a mix of timed and untimed segments:

  • Day 1: 45km, Simpsons Gap Loop (Alice Springs to Alice Springs) + Sunset Beers
    • 1 racing segment, totalling 17km
  • Day 2: 150km, The Gardens Road (Alice Springs to Hale River)
    • 2 racing segments, totalling 94km
  • Day 3: 90km, Arltunga Stage (Hale River to Ross River)
    • 2 racing segments, totalling 47km
  • Day 4: 95km, The Ringwood Stage (Ross River to Alice Springs)
    • 1 racing segment, totalling 43km

TOTAL: 380km riding total, including 201km of timed racing segments.

Timed and untimed segments:

Each day includes a number of timed and untimed segments, allowing riders to test their mettle against each other and the terrain, and then slow down, socialise and savour the experience without the pressures of time afterwards.

Breaking each day up makes the distances more achievable and let’s the racers fly when the time is on, and everyone to cruise when the time is up.

You don’t have to race it – in fact you could ride with friends and cruise all the segments if you want to. You’ll be able to regroup with everyone else in the untimed sections and share plenty of laughs and yarns as you ride through this timeless landscape together.

The roads

The roads vary enormously, from wide gravel ‘highways’ offering multiple lines to narrower double tracks that take more concentration. In the most part, the roads offer a generally smooth surface and can be ridden at speed although there are occasional sections of corrugations and more rocky terrain where you need to watch your wheel. Some sections are a bit sandy but on the whole, the roads are ‘hard’ with little give. We recommend tyres of minimum 38mm width.

Aid stations and support

Numerous water points will be set up along each stage with full support and assistance available in the untimed segments and simpler services mid-way through the racing segments. Stations will be stocked with a range of Skratch sports hydration and nutrition, as well as fruit cake, lollies, and other supplies. Chain lube, pumps and other basic bike supplies will be available if you need it. Most importantly – we have your back – if something goes wrong out there we’re there to assist.

Further details on the competitor services and support available during the event VIEW HERE >>

COURSE DESCRIPTIONS AND DETAILS

Stage 1: Simpsons Gap loop

When: Thursday 22nd August, Starts at 1:30PM
Distance: 45km (280m ascent)
Start Line: Alice Springs BMX Track, Len Kittle Dr (5km south of Mercure)
Finish Line: ‘Flagon Hill’ – at the ‘pop up bar’, opposite John Flynns Grave, Larapinta Drive (6km west of Mercure)
Riding surfaces: 15km gravel roads, 14km asphalt road, 16km sealed bike path.
Racing segment: a 17km segment along the ‘Simpsons Gap Bike Path’ to Flagon Hill. Starts at 28km pt of the stage.
Water points: 28km pt at Simpsons Gap

Stage Details:

Stage 1 is essentially a warm-up and provides the opportunity to turn the legs over, test your bike and visit one of the regions iconic landmarks at Simspons Gap.

The stage starts with a casual roll out from the BMX track and then explores some of the local gravel tracks at the base of the range. You’ll change from one side of the ridge to the other via Honeymoon Gap and continue on asphalt to the impressive Simpsons Gap in a non-competitive, social atmosphere. (Take some time to explore beyond the water point at Simpsons Gap because this is one of the region’s most spectacular natural landforms)

Day 1’s timed racing segment is along the sealed Simpsons Gap Bike Path that weaves through the bushland well away from any roads or urban environments for 17km back towards Alice Springs before a final 1km gravel kicker to the top of Flagon Hill and our pop-up bar. Riders start the segment whenever you like and may race as solos or in groups.

We’ll round out the stage with beers and chips at Flagon Hill, watching the sun going down and getting pumped for the riding ahead.

Stage 2: The Gardens Rd

When: Friday 23rd August, Starts at 6:45am
Distance: 150km (810m ascent)
Start Line: Alice Springs Telegraph Station
Finish Line: Hale River Homestead
Riding surfaces: 115km gravel road, 35km asphalt road
Racing segments:

  • #1: 48km segment along western end of Gardens Road to Pinnacle Rd water point. Starts at 49km pt / ends at 97km pt of the stage.
  • #2: 46km segment along eastern end of Gardens Road to Hale River Homestead. Starts at 107km pt of the stage.

Water points:

  • 30km pt at Tropic of Capricorn
  • 49km pt at Gardens Rd Junction
  • 75km pt at roadside
  • 97km pt at Pinnacle Rd Junction
  • 130km pt at roadside

Stage Details:

Stage 2 is the BIG ONE – where heroes are made in the red dust of the desert. It’s tough country out here and a unique ‘all outback’ experience for any rider. The landscape slowly changes from the scrub country in the west to ridges and river country, with subtle differences along the way. Today is all about becoming at one with the bike, the landscape and yourself.

The stage starts with a mass roll out from the historic Telegraph Station and weaves its way along 14km of gravel Management Tracks. Then it’s 39km north on the sealed Stuart Highway where we will provide an escort and maintain your safety with lead and tailing vehicles in a non-competitive environment.

At the 49km point we turn east onto the famous Gardens Rd – a long, wide and flat ribbon of dirt leading over the horizon…. The Gardens Rd leads 100km west to our destination at Hale River and will be broken up with 3 water points and 2 race segments. This is a long stretch so it’ll be essential to get into a bunch and power along this together, marvelling at the landscape and the trail of dust kicked up behind you as we race across the centre of the continent. Clip in, tune in and enjoy the ride (it’s amazing)…

Stage 3: Artlunga

When: Saturday 24th August, Starts at 8:00am
Distance: 90km (720m ascent)
Start Line: Hale River Homestead
Finish Line: Ross River Homestead
Riding surfaces: 73km gravel road, 17km asphalt road
Racing segments:

  • #1: 17km segment from a mass start at Hale River Homestead. Starts at 0km pt / ends at 17km pt.
  • #2: 30km segment. Starts at 37km pt ends at 67km pt near Trephina Gorge

Water points:

  • 24km pt at Arltunga pub
  • 37km pt on cattle plain
  • 69km pt at Trephina Gorge

Stage Details:

Stage 3 in many ways is the jewel stage of the event thanks to the diversity and sense of journey it provides through a range of breathtaking landscapes. Commencing with a mass start racing segment we ride past Abmbalindum Station and its working cattle yards and then turn south to climb onto the Arltunga Plateau. The racing segment finishes amidst the historic ruins and open air museum of Central Australia’s first inland settlement and fossicking area at Arltunga. Then it’s a cruise to the Arltunga Bush Pub for our first water point and social catch up.

From the Bush Pub through to Trephina Gorge we ride into the heart of the East MacDonnell Ranges, with rugged mountain peaks looming up on the horizon and sheer rock faces and cliffs creating a vertical dimension in a very horizontal landscape. Racing across dry river beds and majestic ghost gums, past ridgelines and timeless rock formations makes this a captivating ride from start to finish.

Stopping in awe at the spectacular Trephina Gorge to refill water bottles it’s an easy 20km cruise from here to camp at the renowned Ross River Homestead.

Stage 4: The Ringwood

When: Sunday 25th August, Starts at 8:00am
Distance: 95km (600m ascent)
Start Line: Ross River Homestead
Finish Line: Alice Springs Brewery (6km south of Mercure)
Riding surfaces: 64km gravel road, 23km asphalt road, 8km shared cycle/walk track
Racing segments:

  • #1: 43km segment from the Ross River Rd to Ross Hwy. Starts at 21km pt / ends at 64km pt.

Water points:

  • 21km pt at Ross River
  • 50km pt on Ringwood/Numery Rd
  • 76km pt at Jesse Gap

Stage Details:

Stage 4 provides another great journey from the gorges of the East MacDonnell Ranges back to civilisation and our ultimate finish line at the Alice Springs Brewery.

We start amidst the sheer ridge lines and peaks of the Ross River Gorge and then cruise south on the narrow Binns Track as it criss-crosses the dry Ross River.  This section of the course is often a bit sandy and loose but feels like an escape from the ranges as we head into the open plains below.

Stage 4’s only racing segment is a Roubaix-esque rattler that commences when we turn west onto Ringwood/Numery Rd. This long, straight section of road is the quickest way home but is probably the roughest of the whole event with enough corrugations and loose rock to keep any rider honest. This section of road can vary significantly in it’s quality and condition. It just depends when it last rained and when the grader last went past! Time to harness your inner Wout Van Aert and apply the power while threading the fastest line. Respite comes with a return to asphalt at the 64km pt before a final fling down the road to the water point at Jesse Gap.

With racing done and very much dusted the course follows a new 8km single track running along the flank of the range to Emily Gap and then its an easy cruise on the asphalt to commence the celebrations at the Alice Springs Brewery.

Summary

Make no mistake, the course is hard, hot and challenging. Our country wasn’t made awesome by softies waving flags but by heroes working hard in tough conditions – like this. This event may well break you down but it’ll rebuild you stronger, wilder and with a sparkle in your eye and the knowledge that you have what it takes.

Ride it. Race it. Experience it. Can you Muster it?