Spoilt for choice | The 2022 XC stage racing calendar is busier than ever

The last few years have been difficult for event organisers, but things are beginning to look up, and it is a damn good time to get into mountain bike stage racing here in Australia. With a range of new events popping up for 2022, and some classics returning after the 2020/2021 forced hiatus, there are races offering a variety of experiences and difficulty levels around the country.


Australia is arguably the birthplace of mountain bike stage racing; the Croc Trophy claims to be the oldest MTB stage race in the world, kicking off in 1995, while the Simpson Desert Challenge unofficially started in 1987. Given that we have so much experience with the format, it’s no surprise that there is such a range of multi-day events for local riders and a massive contingent of riders that pin on a number year after year.

The rad thing about MTB stage racing is that you really get to see a place. The longer stages cover a range of scenery and allow enough time to get a sense of the trails, the terrain and the scenery, and most of these events try to incorporate the hidden gems that make the host locations special.

We’ve put together a non-exhaustive list featuring some of our favourite MTB stage races worth adding to your calendar.

What is mountain bike stage racing?

In the same vein as the grand tours our lycra-clad curly bar cousins race, a mountain bike stage race takes place over several days, and the rider with the lowest cumulative time wins.

These are usually XC marathon events and are substantially longer than the 90-min XCO races put on by your local club. The stages will be ~40km or more and will incorporate singletrack, dirt roads, fire roads, paved roads, rail trails and more. Many races will include a shorter sprint stage, time trial, or even after dark racing to spice things up.

Some races are fully supported with fully stocked feed zones along the way, while others require a bit more pre-planning to ensure you reach the finish line fed a watered.

Quad Crown

The Quad Crown is the newest addition to the MTB stage racing calendar, with four, three-day events stopping through Queensland Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.

The Quad Crown is brand new for 2022, with four stops exploring fresh riding destinations.

Run by the same folks that originally dreamt up the Cape to Cape and Port to Port, the Quad Crown will take riders to riding destinations around Australia they probably haven’t ridden, much less raced on.

The events will take place over a weekend, kicking off with a prologue on Friday afternoon, and ~50km XCM stages on Saturday and Sunday, with a shorter ~30km sprint stage in between.

Racing categories range from U19 to masters; there is an e-Bike division and a separate Elite class, where cash prizes are up for grabs. Points will be awarded after each race, with an overall series winner crowned after the fourth event.

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The GOAT is also new for 2022, with a slightly different take on mountain bike stage racing. With shorter stages designed to maximise fun, The GOAT takes riders to Yackandana, Mount Beauty and Bright for four days of racing on some of the Victorian High Country’s most beloved trails.

The GOAT is taking to the Victorian High Country with racing formats to please XC riders, e-Bikers and more gravity focused riders too.

The XC GOAT and E-GOAT categories will be more or less a standard stage race — the first one to cross the line wins. The Gravity Goat category will run like an enduro, with three timed descents across the stage determining the classification. This won’t be a full-on gravity enduro, though — the XC riders will be taking on the same course after all — but it allows the XC Whippets and Endur-bros and Endur-brodetts to spend a weekend riding in the Victorian High Country together.

With the longest stage set to be 43km and almost entirely composed of singletrack, the courses for The GOAT are less about testing your fitness and more about maximising trail time. With each of the stages close to one another, the goal is for the event not to exist inside a vacuum. You can come to race your bike and still have enough time to enjoy the region without having to worry about big transfers or recovery.

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Cape to Cape

Cape to Cape is the oldest and largest round of the Australian Epic Series. It has attracted riders from around the country to the Margaret River region of Western Australia for over a decade. Each year the race kicks off at the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse and works its way toward Cape Naturaliste near Dunsborough, guiding riders through vineyards, national parks, pine forests, and past picturesque beaches. Every year the race is allowed access to private trails not usually open to the public, so it’s a riding experience like no other.

The Cape to Cape is the marque Epic series race in Australia.

Covering about 200km with 3000m of climbing over four days, the Cape to Cape covers a variety of terrain from grippy red dirty to sandy fire roads, and plenty of WA’s infamous pea gravel. Each stage is designed so that riders of all skill levels should be able to complete the course, and you just need to ensure you have the fitness to keep the pedals turning.

The racing attracts the best of Australia’s elite XCM racers, but the courses strategically finish at the beach or a brewery, and each stage is wrapped up around lunchtime so racers can make the most of their time in this beautiful region of Western Australia.

Touring the Margaret River region of Western Australia, the Cape to Cape has been a yearly pilgrimage for riders from across the country for over a decade.

The race can be done solo or in pairs with Open and age group masters categories.

The overall winner is awarded the James Williamson Medal to honour its namesake, who passed away at the 2010 Cape Epic. Williamson was one of the first riders to sign up for the inaugural event in 2008, and won the first two iterations.

The organisers also have a perpetual trophy for a rider who represents the event’s spirit, honouring Johny Wadell, who overcame severe injury to finish the race. The Beacon Award goes to individuals who persevere through a personal challenge at the race and is nominated by their fellow racers.

The Cape to Cape is part of the Epic Series and serves as a qualifier for the Cape Epic.

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Port to Port

Starting in the late 2010s the Port to Port followed the much-loved recipe of the Cape to Cape and brought it to NSW’s Central Coast. The course has continued to evolve over the years, but riders will be taken on a guided tour through the Hunter Valley, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, contrasting the hinterland of the region against the pristine coastline. We haven’t had a Port to Port since 2019, but it’s back for 2022.

The Port to Port is back for 2022! We cant wait to see what the course has in store for the comeback event.

The course for this year’s race has yet to be announced but using what was planned for 2020, we expect there will be roughly 200km and over 4000m of climbing. The 2020 event was planned to start from the Spicers Guest House high in the Hunter Valley and work its way towards the coast, stopping in at Killingworth and Awaba along the way before finishing in Newcastle.

There are Open, Masters, Grand Masters, and Great Grand Masters racing divisions with categories for solo riders and pairs.


The Port to Port is also part of the Epic Series and serves as a qualifier event for the Cape Epic.

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Reef to Reef

The Reef to Reef is the youngest sibling of the Epic Series in Australia and brings a four-day stage race to Cairns. Starting on the edge of the Coral Sea, the Reef to Reef showcases the variety of Tropical North Queensland’s rainforests, farmlands and some of Australia’s most iconic mountain bike parks.

Racing in Tropical North Queenland in August? Where do we sign up!

Same as the rest of the Epic Series, the Reef to Reef spans four days and covers about 200km each year. Set for August the Reef to Reef also provides a pretty good escape from the winter vortex down south.

However, the Reef to Reef is not just about multi-day racing. Australia’s oldest point to point MTB race, the Triple-R (formerly known as the RRR), is held on the final day of the Reef to Reef. Both events start at the same place, have a descent of the infamous Bump Track and finish with a drag race along the sand of Four Mile Beach.

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Dragon Trail

Named for the ‘Trail of the Tin Dragon,’ a route travelled by Chinese settlers who came to Northeastern Tasmania to mine tin, the Dragon Trail MTB stage race loosely follows this journey. As it so happens, this incredible adventure also passes through Blue Derby, the Bay of Fires and St Helens — talk about a happy coincidence.

The Dragon Trail packages pretty much the ideal east coast riding trip in Tassie in a three-day event.

Over three days of racing, stage one takes riders from Derby to Weldbourough, stage two climbs up to the Blue Tier and descends The Bay of Fires trail, and the finale takes riders for a tour of the Flagstaff Trails, including the Dreaming Pools Wilderness trail. Expect about ~50km per day in the saddle.

After the race, the Dragon Trail sets up a rider hub like nothing we’ve seen at a stage race in Australia. Last year there were lumberjack games, live music, group yoga and more. There are also food trucks, frothy beverages and mechanical support, and when it’s time to get some shuteye and rest up for the next stage, simply head for your tent because there is race camping!

Each morning you’ll have to ride in from the campsite to the start line, but all your stuff will be waiting for you at the next rider hub. The organisers will even collect you from the airport or give you a ride back to your car after stage three if you’re a Tassie local.

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The Redback

First held in 2008, the Redback was formerly known as the Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro.

Set for mid-August, the Redback takes riders to Alice Springs for four days and packs in six stages of racing in the outback. Capped at 200 riders, it’s a unique racing experience, with the smaller field, you have the chance to get to know quite a few of the other riders you’ll be spending the next four days with.

Alice Springs is probably the most underrated riding destination in Australia. The Redback offers a guided tour of the best trails, with some elbows out racing sprinkled on top.

The Redback ain’t your standard XCM slog either, there are typical marathon stages, but race organiser Rapid Ascent also includes a hill climb stage up the infamous Anzac Hill, an individual time trial and a night race too.

Alice Springs also offers a unique MTB stage racing destination. With over 200km of singletrack fanning out from town, there is no need for transfers or multiple AirBNBs, and you don’t need to organise a support crew or a ride from the airport. Rapid Ascent provides on-course nutrition, rider functions, access to a swimming pool and a race wrap up dinner.

With age group racing categories, an e-Bike division and a group and club division, riders can sign up for the whole shebang, or pick and choose the stages they’d like to ride. The Redback also hosts the most average club competition, where riders entered in the group race who manage to finish closest to the middle of the general classification will take home $1000!

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Easter in the Alice

Held over the Easter long weekend (16-18 April), Easter in the Alice is put on by the Central Australian Rough Riders. The three-stage event — not including the Day 0 social ride on Friday — has a full-length option where racers will cover a total of 115km and a shorter Midi Race that does 60km over the weekend. There is also an e-Bike category and you can sign up for just a single stage or ride them all.

If the Redback seems a bit too long, Easter in the Alice is half as long but just as fun.

For 2022 the first stage will also double as the NT XCM State Champs.

By April the brutally hot weather has passed so you can expect temps in the high 20s and blue skies galore. The club kicks the stages off early in the morning so that you can enjoy the epic surroundings bathed in that glorious soft morning light on the bike, but also to ensure the race is wrapped up by midday so you can spend the rest of your time exploring Alice Springs.

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Simpson Desert Challenge

The Simpsons Desert Challenge is a five-day stage race across, well, the Simpson Desert, and it has continually piqued our interest because it’s the only race we’ve come across where the organisers don’t expect you to finish. Starting in Purni Bore, South Australia and finishing in Birdsville, Queensland, the race follows routes constructed for oil exploration and covers anywhere from 485-570km depending on the route.

The event is essentially a game of cat and mouse. You’ll need to maintain an average speed of 12kph to stay ahead of the pursuing sweeper vehicle. If you’re caught, you hop in and are ferried to the finish — you’ll be credited for the distance you’ve covered and restart the next stage as normal.


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The winner is the person who has the lowest overall time and has finished each stage — or covered the most ground if nobody finishes the total distance, which has happened.

The Simpson Desert Challenge requires a bit more logistical planning than any of the other races, and you’ll need to organise an outback ready 4WD, and someone with the skills to drive it. Also, given the route runs in the heart of the Simpson Desert, don’t expect to sleep in a luxury hotel, it’s bush camping, and you’ll need to bring ALL of your supplies.

It’s all for a good cause, with proceeds going towards the Royal Flying Doctor service.

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Croc Trophy

The Croc Trophy is the race that started it all. Kicking in 1995, it’s the world’s oldest official MTB stage race, and definitely the hardest in Australia, if not the world.


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Covering 700km and 14,000m of climbing in eight stages, with that much ground, it should be no surprise that every day is totally different. Each stage ranges between 80-120km, and the race takes place in early November, so you’re also battling the late spring heat and humidity of Tropical North Queensland.

The race starts in Smithfield and makes its way up into the Atherton Tablelands. But it doesn’t stop there, with the route headed into the outback before riders are guided towards the coast via the Skybury Coffee Plantation.

The penultimate stage finishes at Cairns gem Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures for the full Aussie experience, with a short (35km) pedal to finish the race on Four Mile Beach.

New for 2022 is a shorter four-day edition that allows riders to race the first four stages among the international peloton, and it includes transfers back to Cairns.


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With so much distance covered each day, staying in one place is not feasible. Accommodation can be booked through the race, with packages ranging from luxury hotels to camping, or you can find your own. Meals are provided while you’re at the race, and so are transfers, though you’ll need to make your own way to and from the airport.

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Snowys MTB festival

How many stage races include a chairlift ride? The only one we can think of is the Snowys MTB Festival. Taking place every year in early February, The Snowys MTB Festival has stages at the Thredbo Ski Resort, Lake Crakenback and on the Thredbo Valley Trail.

The full Wild Brumby stage rages cover 114km and includes a ride from Lake Crackenback to Thredbo, a chairlift uplift for a timed stage on the Richochet descent, a full run of the Thredbo Vally Track, a Time Trial to the Apline Larder for happy hour, and a 45km XM on the trails around Lack Crakenback Resort.


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That means over 100km of racing that is 90-per cent singletrack. There’s also a shorter four-stage Brumby race that drops the full run of the TVT.

The beauty of the Snowys MTB Fest stage race — beyond the scenery — is that all of the trails are within about 20min driving, so you can stay in Jindy, Lake Crakenback or Thredbo and only unpack your bag once.

The race can be ridden solo or as a team, and as the full three-day event or just the final XCM at Lake Crakenback on Sunday. With age group categories running from 12-18-years-old all the way up to 60+, there is a separate elite race and a single-speed division.

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