Quad Crown goes gravity | The Orca stage race headed for Gravity Eden

After experiencing what may have been the best weather in Queensland, if not Australia, for The Sunny 80, The Quad Crown now turns its attention to Eden, NSW, for The Orca.

Folks who sign up for this race will be some of the first in the country to ride the trails at Gravity Eden because the network is opening just for the race — literally. Initially, Gravity Eden was supposed to open in July, but they’ve had basically no rain, and the trails need some moisture to cure before the public can be let loose on them.

Contour Works has been hard at work putting together the network in Eden, and by all accounts, it’s an absolute ripper!

“They were a bit concerned the event would come in and damage everything, so we went back down last week and revisited the course I put together back in March, and tried to redesign things around the trails they were concerned about,” says McGuire. “What we’ve ended up with is a pretty similar course; it’s going to be amazing.”

They were talking about delaying opening till November, but they’ve agreed to open for us that weekend,” he says.


Wait, isn’t there some other big Quad Crown news?

Before we dive into The Orca course preview, the event team has just announced a major change of venue for the fourth and final event in the 2023 series. Due to unforeseen delays in the construction of the Omeo MTB Park, the final stop on the Quad Crown calendar, nicknamed The Black Pearl, will set sail for Newcastle, NSW, from November 10-12, 2023.

“People that have done Port to Port before will have a general idea of what to expect, but we are changing everything up about the courses,” says McGuire.

The Quad Crown is headed to Newcastle for the 2023 finale, nicknamed The Black Pearl.

This is a spiritual homecoming for the Quad Crown crew, who were the original team behind the Port to Port. It’s safe to say they know the area pretty well, but as McGuire explains, establishing a fifth event venue is a handy thing to have in your back pocket.

“We’ll have an event structure with the format and the way we run things established so in future years, say, for instance, on the Sunshine Coast, there is major construction at Parklands for the Olympics, we’ve got that fifth event that we can place in and out at different times of the year,” he says.

As this change has only just been announced, lots of things are still to be confirmed. What we do know is that the course will hit Glenrock, Whitebridge, Redhead, Fernleigh, and Awaba. As the event comes a little closer, we’ll have a detailed preview. Stay tuned!

Quad Crown 2023 | The Orca

Following on from The Sunny 80, The Orca will utilise the same two-stage and a prelude format spanning Friday to Sunday.

Prelude | Eden | 10km

Friday afternoon will kick off at the Gravity Eden trailhead for the prelude. This sets not only the start waves to be used the following day but also the baseline for the Warrior Crown. For this competition, your average speed is calculated based on your time through the course, which is then used like a handicap in golf to compare your performance across the stages. The rider who outperformed their handicap by the most wins the Warrior Crown.

The course itself is a figure-eight loop. The trail names in Eden haven’t been revealed as of yet, so we can’t tell you too much, but the course will head north first on what McGuire tells us is the only trail that runs in a counterclockwise direction, which will make a loop and bring you back to the trailhead.

The Prelude is a quick 10km rip around trails close to the trailhead. It’s a great opportunity to wake up the legs after a big travel day, and get a feel for the trails in Eden.

After that, the bottom half of the figure-eight takes in a loop south of the trailhead. These trails all existed before work started on the new trail network, but Contour Works has given them a once over, and McGuire says they are looking spectacular.

The stage is undulating for the entire 10km, and the climbs are brand new, perfectly built up trails — think uphill berms, McGuire even goes as far as to say they are fun — and there is a creek crossing you’ll navigate twice.

McGuire wasn’t able to target a specific crux, where folks will either lose or gain time, but he did say the final 300m uphill drag to the finish is a time you’ll want to chew stem.

Stage 1 | Tathra | 35km

Stage One is a 45-min road trip north to Tathra. This is one of the old guards of riding spots on the South Coast, and some of the trails have been here for well over a decade.

“The trails have been here for many, many years, but they go to a lot of trouble to keep them in good nick. There are some new flow trails, but we’re using a lot of tracks that people will be familiar with, that have been there for a long time,” says McGuire.

While Eden is showing off brand new trails, the course in Tathra hits the South Coast classics.

The stage will start and finish at the Tathra Hotel — literally outside the front door — located just below the headland.

“They have a beer garden outback that overlooks the ocean, so the plan is to have the start and finish right there. We will roll up Bega Street in a controlled rollout and then turn left and plunge down to the southern side of the trail network, heading towards Wallagoot Lake,” he says.

McGuire tells us this section is mostly fire trails, ducking in and out of singletrack for about the first 13km. On the way back, the course takes in some old-fashioned XC tracks en route to Bundadung.

“Once we’ve done the 17km loop of the Bundadung trails, we come back over Bega Street, and blast along behind all the properties. Just on the edge of town, there is a fire break on the edge of the bush, and we make our way back to the Tathra Hotel. We pop out on the main road about 300m above the hotel, turn right and fly down through the finish line, then around the back of the hotel, where you’ll grab a beer, sit down and look at the ocean,” he says.

The key to success on Stage One will be keeping the rubber side down, and saving something for the final uphill punch.

McGuire tells us there aren’t any major climbs that stick out that will obliterate the field, but he says the key to success on this stage will be keeping it upright through Bundadung, and keeping something in the tank for the last kilometre before you cross back over Bega street into the finish.

Stage 2 | Eden | 46.5km

The Orca finale completes the crescendo of the event. With about 1100m of climbing over 45.6km, it will be hard-fought, but it’s well worth the effort.

“You go north of the network on a fire trail loop. In the first 5km, you’re basically going up about 300m of elevation, and then it’s up and down for the next five kilometres, all on fire trails. It’ll spread the field out and basically give everyone the opportunity to ride the singletrack on their own,” says McGuire

That space will be much appreciated when you first dip into the singletrack, an unnamed at the time of writing, 8km wilderness trail, which will filter riders back into the event centre at the trailhead after about 18km.

McGuire tells us there is a descent that should take folks about six minutes to complete. Despite the extended gravity-fueled fun that keeps on going and going, he thinks the highlight of the course is the wilderness trail.

Then it’s over to the northern side of the network to ride a loop in the existing trails where the Prelude was held.

“But this time, when you’re on that side, you keep climbing up trails that run parallel to Nethercote Road to the high point of the park. After probably 20 min of climbing, you come back down a descent that took me six minutes when I rode it — it was epic and just kept going and going,” he says.

From there, it’s back up to the top of the park. McGuire tells us at this point in the stage, on this climb, there is about a 2-3km section of fire trail at about 21km. Whoever reaches the top first will likely be the stage winner.

Gravity Eden is designed to be…well a gravity network. So instead of jumping on a shuttle, you’ll have to earn you turns.

On the way back down, the course will take folks through the 8km wilderness trail again, which will be the last bit of singletrack into the finish.

“We think it’s great that at this stage in the race, you’ve got this climb up on the road that will give everyone a chance to position themselves and empty the tank before heading back into a singletrack climb up to the top. You’ve already done the wilderness trail before, so you know what to expect — where to brake and where you don’t need to — so everyone gets a second go at it in the race. It will be fantastic,” he says.

“I don’t want to overstate it, but mate, people need to be at this one. It’s going to be epic. Especially with the crescendo to Sunday — a lot of people will know what to expect with Tathra, which will still be a great day riding. But this Sunday stage is absolutely awesome,” he says.

How do I sign up for Quad Crown The Orca?

Entries for Quad Crown, The Orca are open now. Head over to the Quad Crown website for more information or details.

It’s pretty special that The Orca will be one of the first times that folks will get to see what Eden has to offer for themselves.

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