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Wed, 26 Sep 2007

No more Polaris Challenge - 14:52
In the latest news from Wild Horizons that arrived in the email today Huw announced that they will no longer be running Australian Polaris events after the Urban Polaris in Canberra in December.

The Australian Polaris Challenge was the first mass participation endurance mountain biking event in Australia, pre dating the Canberra based Australian 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race by two years. By first I am not ignoring events such as the Simpson Desert cycle classic, simply saying mass participation in that the logistics of competing in earlier events such as the Simpson were often as daunting, as the riding component of the event.

I can understand why the Paddle Polaris did not make sense to run, it never had a huge number of entrants and yet would still have had a lot of logistic issues behind putting it on. The Urban Polaris though fun is not an overly challenging event and is only on one day. Also now it has been held in the same city for so long it is no longer as interesting as it may have been the first time or two in one location.

The original event was still the best. The Polaris Challenge, 2 days out there with a friend navigating around the place on your mountain bike. Carrying all your camping gear for an overnight camp somewhere on a 25km by 25km map of some new and interesting location in the Australian bush. The event is modelled on the UK Polaris Challenge (now there are a few other events in other countries also), this started back in 1991 and has run over in the UK since. Huw, being from the UK had competed in the event there and when he arrived in Australia found the lack of a Polaris style event something that needed fixing, thus he started running one here.

There is no other event on the Australia mtb calendar quite like it, cyclegaines (rogaines on bikes) only tend to be one day events, Adventure races have other disciplines than just mountain biking. Mountain bike races do not have much in the way of mental challenges, without the route planning and navigation while out there you can simply head out and push your body with out any thoughts of where you are or how to get around entering your head. The added challenge of packing gear and being able to handle the extra weight and the consequent slow down in your route choices just adds to the fun and challenge.

I had heard for a few years now Huw had been attempting to interest some event organiser in purchasing the rights of all the Polaris events, it appears no one has bitten. I am unsure of what branding issues there are between the UK Polaris and any of the others (they all use the same logo), however I do hope there is another event that comes along in the coming years (and soon) to fill the hole left by this. The effort involved in running an event like this is considerable though as you have to spend a great deal of time in the area the event will run in, get the community on side, get permissions from all land owners involved. Create the maps and arrange all the other logistics. The fact that there has been a drop in numbers attending the event in the past few years probably did not help. It may not need to be branded "Polaris" but the format of camping, teams, navigation, all in one discipline, new and interesting location each year are necessary I think.

Anyway thanks to Huw and the rest of Wild Horizons for all your efforts over the years, I know I had fun (2003 Burraga, 2004 Murramarang, 2005 Comboyne, 2006 Delegate, 2007 Black Springs (have not yet written my report or uploaded the photos)). The fun of the event will be missed.

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