Things You Didn’t Know About the Cairns World Cup

Words by Flow/Glen Jacobs | Images by Flow

With the Cairns World Cup kicking off in less than two weeks, it’s time to grab your tickets, dust off your cowbell, buy some sun screen and snake repellant, and get pumped. We thought we’d have a chat with Glen Jacobs, Mr Cairns, and learn a few things about the World Cup that you won’t find in a brochure.


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The Cairns vegetation can leave you with a six-year holiday memory of the kind you do not want!

What is the largest snake spotted while building or maintaining the World Cup courses?

The biggest python we’ve ever seen up there was seven metres. We called him Snappy McToothy, but that was many years ago when we built the original course, so he is either dead or gone into hibernation to shed its skin. In recent times we’ve been fairly lucky, we’ve come across only a handful of baby medium-sized rock pythons on the downhill, averaging around four metres.

It’s good to remember, April is mating season for all rainforest snakes. So we warn everybody not to be too concerned if a large snake wraps around you, and pulls you up into the treetops – just ask someone for help while you are still on the ground or play dead.

When I was a kid I asked my grandad if the large snakes would “eat ya’ whole.” He said “Na, not at all, they spit that part out.”

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Wait-a-while vine, the world’s most effective bunting.

How many stinging trees remain in the Smithfield area that you’re aware of?
All stinging trees have been removed from the main downhill track or spectator routes. But the cross-country course is a different story; due to the limited numbers of track marshals available, we have replanted most of the stinging trees and some large wait-a-while vines on the switchback sections, just to catch any short-cutting by riders.

Deeper in the jungle there are some large clusters of hybrid stinging trees that have somehow bred with illegal marijuana crops, and these plants really mess with anybody smoking the leaves. You usually can tell by the red eyes and swollen lips.

How long does the pain of the notorious stinging tree stay with you?

It depends where you are hit on the body with the leaf. Closer to the bone, the sharper the pain, and longer it lasts.  I had one hit that lasted six years, and every time the weather got cold, it would start stinging.

Over the years we found out a few things, like if you wax the wound, it removes the nettles immediately and the pain is gone. If you urinate on the sting, the initial pain reduces dramatically too, just don’t get stung on the face. Many backpackers seem to get stung when they unknowingly use the soft looking leaf as toilet paper in the bush.

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The rock garden was the trickiest section of all to construct, manipulated by hand to be just about impassable without full commitment!

Which section of the cross country or downhill track was the most difficult to construct?

On the XCO, it was the steep multiple choice climb of Whiskers O’Flaherty, and rebuilding the drop descent of Jacob’s Ladder. On the DH it would have to be the rock garden, manipulating boulders and rocks into place was tough.

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The run down the ridgeline features a triple that can be up to 25 metres long if you hit the biggest option.

What is the size, from lip to lander, of the largest jump on the Cairns World Cup downhill track? 

The largest jump is on the ridge line sitting at 25 metres, if riders take the big line. But most riders take a line that averages around 16 metres. Ronning’s Ramp near the bottom of the course, can be stretched out fairly long with enough speed too.

What does the World Cup mean to Cairns?

A lot, historically because Cairns was were the World Cup first came to the southern hemisphere in 1994 and it’s a real recognition of the role Cairns played in Australian mountain biking, but financially too. The last World Cup had an economic impact of over $3.57 million, and brought more than 300 riders from 35 countries to Cairns.

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