Over the Christmas holidays we took our usual refuge in the Snowy Mountains, one of our favourite playgrounds. We tend to just take road or mountain bike, but this year called for all the toys as we planned to take in all of the spectacular road routes, alongside the epic mountain biking that has been steadily growing in the region since we began visiting 5 years ago.
We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to recce the bike and run courses for the TreX Cross Triathlon planned at Crackenback in Feb 2016. A bunch of the Karmea clan are heading to the race, so some practice on the route would be key for us as athletes, and also as coaches to better guide and train our athletes in preparation for the race.
The race HQ is the stunning Lake Crackenback Resort, nestled in Thredbo Valley, and surrounded by alpine scenery, a beautiful setting for an off-road triathlon. The swim takes place in Lake Crackenback, overlooked by up market holiday homes, and the mountains. The bike course takes in the mountain bike trails that skirt the edge of the resort, hugging the banks for the Thredbo river, and winding through the bush. The run route follows the smaller walking trails before emerging at the lake.
On a stunning summers day, we arrived at Lake Crackenback Resort for our recce. The drive alone gets you excited! The road twists and turns into the Thredbo valley, as a sparkling Lake Jindabyne disappears in your rear view mirror. Parking is easy (right by the coffee shop in prep for post sweating coffee!) and soon enough we are ready to ride.
The original route starts on the tarmac road towards the exit from the resort (for 2016, there will be a new single track in place of the tarmac, but this wasn’t available for riding at yet), before turning right and dipping into the single track. From here on in, it’s playtime and the trail snakes its way through the trees via a series of fantastic berms, and spits you out alongside the river. A sharp left turn takes you onto a bridge over the river and onto a route skirting the outside of the Ski Tube carpark area, before linking up with the Muzzlewood trail out towards Diggings camp site. This is probably the only real hill of the course, as you zigzag up before hitting a faster section or fire access road underneath the power lines toward the camp site.
As you reach Diggings, you turn right and join the bottom section of the Thredbo Valley Trail. Across walkways above wetlands, over a metal bridge, and then you are back to a short gentle climb before a fast decent back towards Crackenback on gravel tracks – be careful not to overcook these corners and slide out on the loose surface! This then links back up with an out and back section along the river trails, once more on tight sinuous singletrack. Once back in the resort grounds and having turned at the furthest point on the course, the return to the lake is the fastest part of the course, lots of fun to be had here! There’s one steep rocky pinch on the way back, which can unnerve those less confident, so practice the line through this before the race if you can. Overall, the trail is a mix of dirt, loose gravel, grass track and short sections of tarmac to bring you back to transition. Unless conditions drastically change on race day we’d recommend a fast-rolling tyre for the course, eg Maxxis Crossmark or Specialized Fast Trak.
While the course isn’t difficult in terms of rocky technical riding, or hard handlebar chewing climbs, one struggle will be holding pace through corners if you’re not used to it, so lots of cornering practice prior to the race should form part of your training. Oh and there is one ‘be-atch’ of a rock on the top section of river side trail that will catch up out, my advice, after the short roll over a few rocks, move far left to line yourself up for the right turn between the rocks, unclip one foot and very ungracefully use your foot to manage your way through! It’s not pretty but might just save your cranks, pedals or your pain job!
The course offers enough passing places, but I would expect that some hold ups might occur, especially on the first lap, as the hustle and bustle from the stronger vs weaker swimmers and bikers is fought out.
After a quick transition at the car, it was time to clock up a few laps on the run course. The start is likely to feel tough as you take the trails up towards the golf course, and straight into a little pinch of a hill, before dipping down and joining the smaller walking trails just past the right turn that the bike course takes into the trails.
The run route winds through the bush, with a mixture underfoot of grass, dirt and granite rock. There are few short sharp climbs, and some technical rocky sections where you need to watch your footing on the section that follows the river. Both of these elements should be built into your training for the event. The ground was soft and wet in parts when we ran but this could be better or worse come race day, which just adds to the fun!! I ran in my Inov-8 trail runners which felt to heavy for the trail conditions, so will probably opt for a lighter weight shoe with these as back up if the conditions turn wet and muddy underfoot.
There are enough passing places on the run, and the course will suit many runners, with technical aspects in the single track, and a great open flat trail section around the lake for a fast finish at the lake!
Post recce, it was time to relax and stretch under the trees around the lake and enjoy a well earned coffee. The TreX is going to be a very exciting race to participate in, the location couldn’t be better, the course is fast and fun, and it’s an added bonus that this location will also host the World Champs for 2016. The perfect showcase for Australian off-road triathlon racing.