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Teachers band together to revive mountain bike challenge

RHYS THOMAS

A GROUP of school teachers have joined hands with local mountain bike clubs across Far North Queensland to revive a decade-old competition and usher it into a new era.

The FNQ Interschool MTB Challenge was a prominent race a few years ago and was attended by schools from across Cairns and on the Tablelands.

It brought kids together from different skills levels as they took on the tracks at the Davies Creek Mountain Bike Park in a one-off cross-country event.

However, after a change in governing bodies, it became much harder for schools to run the event and the challenge slowly dwindled away.

Now, a band of school teachers with the help of local mountain biking clubs, have revived the competition and expanded it drastically, taking it from a one day event to a multi-series challenge across different locations.

The expansion of the previous format has made the FNQ Interschool MTB Challenge one of the most popular school-aged mountain biking events in the Far North.

“I was working at a different school at that point and there was a decent number of kids going up to that and racing,” St Augustine’s teacher Chad Elliot said.

“It was bringing together different schools from Cairns and the Tablelands that hadn’t really competed against one another.”

Darren Grose, a teacher from Malanda State High School, said the initial challenge gave kids a chance to experience mountain biking without the pressures of club competition.

These kids may have not been confident enough to go into any club races whereas because it was a school event, kids that hadn’t raced before got into it

Malanda State High School teacher Darren Grose

With the help of the Cairns Mountain Bike Club and the Mareeba Mountain Goats, Mr Elliot and Mr Grose, alongside other like-minded teachers, have reshaped the competition into the multi-stage challenge it is today.

Taking place over several heats at different locations across the North, the Challenge provides kids with the chance to ride on some of the world’s best mountain biking trails and interest has become so strong that every race to date has been completely booked out.

Mareeba State High School teacher and avid mountain biker Travis Cummings had a big hand in organising the first two events that took place at Davies Creek earlier this year.

Mr Elliot said many of the riders wanted to compete in an event that dealt more with gravity and the technical side of riding, hence the third round will be held on the world-renowned downhill tracks of Smithfield on 22 October.

The Smithfield Mountain Bike Park has some of the world’s best downhill tracks and was chosen to host Crankworx in 2022 and 2023.

“That event will be what they call an Eduro event, so the students will ride to a starting point without being timed, then they are timed from that starting point to the finish of the downhill,” Mr Elliot said.

The trails are chosen for age and skill levels so they are not tackling really intense trails but trails the race director believes are accessible

St Augustine’s teacher Chad Elliot

“We know those trails and there is a good scope to progress yourself depending on what line you choose.”

There are six categories across three different age groups as the students compete against each other but most importantly themselves, trying to beat their own times.

There are also skills events that will be run for the older age groups that focus on mountain biking technique.

Mr Elliot and Mr Grose have expressed their thanks to the Cairns Mountain Biking Club and the Mareeba Mountain Goats for their support in hosting the Challenge.

The two teachers are hoping to develop the challenge so they can continue bring more and more students into the world of mountain biking.

Keep up with the latest news in Cairns and the Far North, and check out some of our top stories this week: Cairns set for North Queensland Games and Housing funding for DV survivors.

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