Most triathletes will have one or more bucket-list races that they want to compete in or experience. Others have certain races that they keep coming back to year after year.

Text and Images By Rob Sheeley

Roth, Kona, Alpe d’Huez et al are likely to be the type of races that appear on the bulk of these wish-lists. 

Julia Creek, 664km west of Townsville in North Queensland, may not be the first notion that springs to mind when one searches for the ultimate triathlon excursion, but it probably should be.

The town plays host to the Dirt’n’Dust festival, not just a triathlon, but a true country experience.

The festival sees the population swell from less than 400 to just shy of 4000, with a wall-to-wall weekend of unique, all-inclusive events and activities that are superbly embraced by the locals.

There is plenty of options for accomodation with multiple motels, a caravan park and camping areas available for the weekend.

A junior triathlon kicks off proceedings on Friday afternoon with a dip in the local pool, a cycle on the flat, expansive streets and a rolling run on a red dirt road that oozes outback. This is a genuine grass-roots event and makes the weekend a truly family affair.

There is more entertainment Friday evening with live music and novelty events including the world famous bog snorkelling. Julia Creek is rich in artesian water and this is pumped up to fill the pit in which competitors snorkel. A combination of mud and inevitable hi-jinx combine to make it one of the main attractions of the festival. The best part is, this is only an appetiser for a gigantic Saturday.

Saturday’s triathlon requires athletes to load their bikes onto a gigantic B-triple cattle truck for transportation to the swim start in a split transition event. Again it is a unique part of this event.

The race kicks off with an 800m out and back swim in conditions that many are unlikely to have encountered before, but they are conditions that all involved seem to enjoy immensely. It is the rare opportunity to experience a dip in a country waterhole, just another element adding to the true beauty of the event.

Then it is onto the bike for a straight 25km jaunt back into the town centre, exploring some flat, expansive terrain with an added challenge. The prevailing wind for the race almost always guarantees that the ride will feature a headwind. Who says you need to go to Kona to test yourself in these sort of conditions?

After a toil on the velo it is a three lap 5km run around the town centre, and this is where the locals really turn it on. The street is lined with people cheering and lending much needed encouragement as runners cut a swathe through the heat. Another added bonus is the many aid stations along the street providing all the essential refreshments.

You can also see street performers belting out all the country classics like Copperhead Road or The Gambler as the runners pound the pavement in unison with the music.

As soon as the race finishes, Julia Creek knows how to relax and party! The afternoon kicks off with a race meeting featuring a classic dusty race course and fashions on the field competitions for both adults and kids alike.

From there it’s onto DND central for the evening with a PBR bull riding event providing a genuine spectacle.

After this it’s live music, with James Blundell headlining in 2017 along with the Bull Dust band. You can even enter Australia’s best butt competition and strut your stuff on stage for a crack at your own 15-minutes of fame.

Julia Creek has absolutely nailed it when it comes to the complete triathlon weekend. It is like nothing else and organised perfectly. So start scratching a few off that bucket list and put the Dirt’n’Dust Festival right at the top for next year.

About The Author

Rob Sheeley is the Race Editor for WITSUP

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