For the last 20 years, the annual Simpson Desert Bike Challenge has been an annual adventure for the select group of endurance riders who can organise themselves and a support crew for an ultra-marathon in one of the most remote areas of the world in South Australia.
The event comprises nine stages, almost 600km, over five days, and the route uses the old Rig Road across the Simpson Desert. While the first part of the race is focused on climbing and descending through sand dunes with all but the strongest riders doing their share of walking and carrying their bikes, the second half of the race challenges riders with claypans, gibber plains, and the uncertain conditions of Goyder's Lagoon.
In 2007, the race has been picked up by the specially incorporated Desert Challenge Inc. Led by president Ed Bourke, himself a former winner, Desert Challenge has comprehensively reviewed race rules and every aspect of the race organisation. They have affiliated with Mountain Bike Australia and have re-established links with Outback communities.
One special feature of the Simpson Desert Bike Challenge is that there is no big prize pool even for the winners. All proceeds are donated to charity. For 2007, the beneficiary will be 4Wheels4Sean charity recently relaunched by the cycling peak bodies in Australia. The spirit of the event is personal achievement, contribution to the community and appreciation of the environment.
This year's edition starts October 2 at Purni Bore in the west and finishes at the historic Birdsville Hotel on October 8. Online entries, up to 50 riders, are open until the end of August. Visit www.desertchallenge.org for more info.