It's not called the FN Epic for nothing! With soaring temperatures, strong wind gusts and over 2,200metres of climbing stretched across 100km of dry and dusty trails, only the tough survived.
Now in its third year, the Mareeba Mountain Goats event (proudly sponsored by Pump'n'Pedals) continues to live up to its reputation as a gruelling end-of-season sufferfest. Maintaining its original format of three race distances (30, 50, 100k), there's sufficient singletrack for all skill and fitness levels.
This year 110 riders lined-up for the challenge; 26 x 100k, 64 x 50k, 20 x 30k. Whilst numbers may have been down slightly from last year (32, 64 and 29 respectively), the excitement within the event site was only over-shadowed by the gargantuan Thule finish arch as it swayed precariously in the breeze.
Early race tactics by Crank'D Cycles Dan Rubach saw him out in-front through the first checkpoint, eager to shake his brother (and 2013 winner) Jeff Rubach. Unfortunately, it would not be Dan's day, with a mechanical ending his hopes of a win later in the race. For the second year running, Jeff took the title with a convincing lead over the 100k field - adding to his long list of 2014 accolades (RRR, Paluma Push, HotRock ... to name but a few).
As if 100k of dirt wasn't punishment enough, Townsville's Greg "Longo" Longson covered the entire distance on a singlespeed.
Throughout the day we chatted to the usual crowd of organisers, volunteers, supporters and riders. Here's what a few of them had to say:
Steph Best: "Mashie can eat 12kg of bananas" - something we didn't know about Paul Mashford
Liv Cole: "These bananas are free for team riders, $5ea for other riders and $10ea for anyone else"
Dan Rubach: "If Jeff beats me I'll walk back to Townsville" - we can't wait to hear more on this statement
Wayne Evans: "I need a bmx to train in the off-season ... and a duallie ... and a ..."
William Bird: "Richard Ryan, you need to grow a beard to race that category next year" - directed at Richard's 1st place podium appearance, flanked by bearded 2nd and 3rd place-getters
Megan Harris: "This was Rudi's favourite song last year" - referring to Taylor Swift singing over the PA
Full category results are available here.