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If you’re into triathlon for discovering exotic locations and new adventures, Challenge Cairns may be the race to try. The inaugural Cairns Airport Challenge Cairns will take place Sunday, June 5, in the beautiful northeast corner of Australia, a hub for the exploratory traveler. Chris “Macca” McCormack is the event’s ambassador, and he’ll be racing his first (and potentially only, with his new ITU focus) iron-distance event of the year.
If it’s any indication of Tropical North Queensland’s beauty, Macca honeymooned in Cairns years ago. “I say this with absolute honesty: I’ve raced around the world in places they call the most beautiful places in the world,” Macca says. “But when I rode up to Port Douglas on Tuesday and saw the bike course and ran into town—there’s no event in the world like this and it has the potential to be enormous.”
With a hefty prize purse of $142,000 (AUD) and more than 1500 combined competitors racing in the half and full distances, Challenge Cairns has already made a strong showing in its first year. Here’s why to put Challenge Cairns on your dream list:
1. Racing with Macca. Despite his decision to lay off the long distance for a while, Macca has committed to racing Challenge Cairns for three years. If you’re into iron-distance, this could be one of few chances you have to do the same race as the two-time world champion.
2. Laid-Back, Friendly Race Vibe. The Challenge Family is known for putting on iconic races with a relaxed feel. “[Challenge Family CEO] Felix genuinely cares for the athletes,” says 12x iron-distance champion Belinda Granger, who will race Sunday. “He wants to make sure that age groupers through to professionals are going to get their money’s worth. They know people pay a lot of money and want to make sure people have a great time.”
3. The Great Barrier Reef. It’s one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and hey, exploring it pre-race won’t even hinder your taper—Macca did it! Unbelievable creatures such as massive green turtles, blue starfish, giant clams and cute Nemo clownfish are all within arm’s reach.
4. Once-in-a-Lifetime Bike Course. The coastal Captain Cook Highway is being shut down to cars so competitors can bike past the incredible beaches and epic cliffs that cyclists can’t normally (safely) enjoy. As Granger tweeted, “How’s this for a view? Going to be a ripper of a ride.”
5. Unique, Free Pool. The stunning Cairns Esplanade Swimming Lagoon is a sparkling clean, public pool than can accommodate 1000 swimmers at a time. Situated next to the mudflats of Cairns in the central area of the Esplanade boardwalk, from a view it looks like it’s part of the ocean.
6. Adventure Tours for All. Dreaming up an adventure? There’s a tour for that. Cairns is all about tourism, and you could book a different adventure for every day you’re here—from white water rafting, crocodile feeding and sky diving to exploring the rainforest (the world’s oldest!) via cable car or a nighttime animal-spotting tour.
7. Pretty Much Any Sporting Event You Can Think Of. The Cairns and USM Events folks didn’t stop at a half and full triathlon. Over the course of 10 days, they offer a 5K, the RRR (Rural, Rainforest and Reef) Mountain Bike Challenge, the Quicksilver Reef Swim (just try to resist this open water race), a junior triathlon and more.
8. Spectator-Friendly Run Course. The marathon loops three times through the main center of Cairns, so family and friends can see you at your worst…er…most needed time.
9. Actual Restaurant Options. Many races are held in secluded areas with only a few venues for your pre-race meal. But Cairns has tons of dining locales, many of which feature fresh local seafood and harbor views for perfect sunset dining.
10. Warm—but Not Too Warm—Temps. June means winter in Australia, and around the Great Barrier Reef that means temperatures in the 70s. It’s consistently sunny without being steamy hot.
Check back for a report on Sunday’s Challenge Cairns race!