The running of the Urban Polaris in Canberra this Sunday will mark the end of the Polaris era. After 11 years and 23 events, Polaris Events, some of Australia's best known adventure events will end.
When 120 mountain bikers turned up to the first two-day Polaris Challenge in 1997 they took part in Australia's first mass participation endurance mountain bike event. That event grew to attract 600 riders at locations far and wide across NSW and was the precursor to the explosion in mass participation mountain biking events that has occurred in the past five years.
The Polaris Challenge was not only a chance to explore new regions but was as much about fun as it was about severe challenge in the bush. Whether it was cross-dressing bikers at Black Springs, cow decorated bikes at Comboyne or teddy bears at Sunny Corner, riders never quite knew what they were going to get themselves into or find themselves doing.
Out of the Challenge came the Urban Polaris, an idea to bring "mountain bikes to the city" first in Sydney in 2000 then to find a home in the ACT - Australia's Cycling Territory, where it now attracts some 600 riders. Polaris Events then took to the water for the Paddle Polaris to challenge kayakers with craftily placed checkpoints, overnight camping and paddle tossing on waterways across the state.
"I still love organizing the Polaris events but sometimes it's good to leave things behind while you still love them," said the man behind the Polaris events Huw Kingston of Wild Horizons. "I never like to get too comfortable and needed to free up some time for some new and varied challenges."
"It may be that we bring them back in years to come or find someone else who will run them but for now it is time to close the Polaris chapter," said Kingston. Wild Horizons will move on to hosting some new events including one for 2009 for the second weekend of March. The VAUDE Highland Fling MTB Marathon will also continue annually.
"It was originally my plan to make the Berghaus Polaris Challenge, run earlier this year, the last Polaris event but we made commitments to run the Urban Polaris in Canberra as part of the Brindabella Challenge cycling festival again this year. There are nearly 600 riders signed up for this, the eighth Urban Polaris, with some two thirds from interstate. We'll be giving them the usual fun and frolics around the ACT with a bit of an "End" theme to a few checkpoints and a look down memory lane."
The 2007 Urban Polaris will start and finish at Stromlo Forest Park on Sunday, December 2.