Thunderbolt’s Adventure – FAQ


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Everything you need to know about Thunderbolts Adventure 2023 is on this page! It is updated regularly and is the result of 6 years of experience running this event so please grab yourself a beverage and read this carefully. Any further questions or suggestions, please email info@graveleur.cc

Want to know what Thunderbolts Adventure is in one sentence? We think one of our riders summed it up pretty well here:

“I want to thank you for pioneering and building this great event, and your team of helpers for implementing your vision; such a terrific event, with a delightful balance of badassery, conviviality, community and unpretentiousness. Big words for big memories.” – Andy

Founded in 2017 as a One Day Epic, in 2019 the ride was changed to a more manageable 2 day Overnighter but do not be fooled. This is still a big weekend of cycling for all who answer the call of the Barrington Tops.

What is the Thunderbolts Adventure and when will it be held?

Is it a Race?

Is there support?

Who will be doing Support?

Are there checkpoints?

What are the route options?

When will I get the route?

What do you mean by remote area?

Is there mobile phone coverage?

Do I need a SPOT or PLB?

What bike do I need to take?

What is the quality of the roads?

What spares do I need?

Do I need to train for this event?

What if I want to pull out of the event?

Do I need lights?

Is there insurance for this event?

What is cost of the event?

Where do I sleep on Saturday night?

Mandatory Gear

Tell me more about the Elite Stage Race

COVID-19

Refund Policy

What is the Thunderbolts Adventure and when will it be held?

The 2023 edition of the Thunderbolts Adventure will be run on 6-7 May 2023. It will be an overnight gravel adventure in the Barrington Tops in New South Wales designed for competent cyclists who are experienced in long distance riding.

You don’t have be be a super fit racing machine to enter this event, but you do need to:

  • Understand how to fuel your body for an extended ride covering over 100 km a day on remote gravel roads
  • Be experienced at navigating and following a GPX route and understand how to stay safe and communicate without mobile phone reception.
  • Have a reasonable level of mechanical know how in case you need to perform running repairs on your bicycle eg, punctures, ripped tyres, broken chains, non-functioning gears.

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Is it a race?

Yes and No

We have capacity for around 300 riders to join the 2 day event, camping at the Moonan Flat Pub on Saturday night. In this format, a few will aim for line honours and Strava bragging rights, but most will just enjoy the ride at a sustainable pace and look to team up with a small bunch of riders of similar ability.  This is a very social cycling event and you can be sure you’ll go home with some new riding buddies.

There will also be a race category for riders who qualify via application. Please email your public Strava profile to info@graveleur.cc introducing yourself. In 2023 we will be running an Elite 2 day stage race. We have capacity for up to 30 riders in this race.

Whether you are racing yourself or others there is a chance you could be riding by yourself at times, so it is most important that you come fully prepared and self-sufficient. Better still bring the mates who you normally ride with and you are guaranteed to go home with some life long memories.

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The Course

For 2023, we are excited to be returning to the classic clockwise loop route now that landslide on Barrington Tops Forest Road has been repaired. You can view and download the course here

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Is there support?

Plan to be self-sufficient. You need to navigate your way along the course as there will be no event markings.  You will need to carry your own nutrition and hydration. We would recommend carrying a minimum of 3 litres of water.  You need to carry sensible protective clothing.  Plan for all four seasons in one day  You need to carry any spares that you feel you might conceivably need on the day.

(See Mandatory Gear to be inspected at registration.  The list is right at the bottom of this page.  Don’t skip this…IMPORTANT!)

There will be one opportunity to top up water bottles on each day. Locations for each water stop will be posted closer to the event. Graveleur will provide water so you can refill your bottles.  Please consider others and save water, taking only what you need.

We will have a sweep car drive through after the event on both days, to make sure everyone is back safely, but you could be waiting a long time for this car to come through and it may not have space for you and your bike, so don’t rely on this as a sag wagon.  It is primarily to ensure the safe passage of the riders.

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Who will be doing support?

You should prepare for this ride as if it is basically an unsupported ride…..BUT

We provide a water stop each day and have several cars tracking the field ensuring everyone is progressing well. You must sign on and off at the start and finish of each day so we can account for every rider. We try to provide a sweep vehicle. If you are offered a lift by the sweep vehicle and decline, you do so on the understanding that you are on your own and likely no one will be coming back for you.

We are looking for people to help out. Give us a shout if you know someone or would like to volunteer yourself.  We will cover your  expenses and we reckon there is a good chance you won’t have to buy a single drink on Saturday night.

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Are there checkpoints?

You will need to sign on at the following locations:

  1. Saturday: Event Start, Gloucester Bowling Club, Park St, Gloucester
  2. Saturday: Stage 1 Finish, Moonan Pub, Moonan Flat
  3. Sunday: Stage 2 Start, Moonan Pub, Moonan Flat
  4. Sunday: Stage 2 Finish, The Roundabout Inn, 28 Church St, Gloucester

It is critical that you sign the sheet at each of these points so that we can keep account of your whereabouts and safety.

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What are the route options?

The event is a total of up to 230kms with approximately 5000 vm of elevation over two days. You’ll summit the Barrington Tops range and descend into Moonan Flat on Saturday and return over the range via a different route to the start point in Gloucester on Sunday. The roads are 70% remote gravel roads. The course for the overnighter and the Elite race and identical for 2023.

New for 2023, there will also be a “One Dayer” option. We know the “Standard Course” is a big ride in anyone’s books. As such we’ve added a one day option for those who may be just looking to “dip their toe in the water” or you just prefer to ride “party pace”. This category to take place on Saturday, will start and finish at Moonan Flat. This way you’ll be back for the party on Saturday night and you can enjoy your breakfast Sunday morning whilst scoffing at all those rolling out with sore legs Sunday morning. The clockwise loop is approximately 70km and 1600vm, still a decent ride!

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When will I get the route?

The route has been published early to give you plenty of time to plan and perfect your navigation.

Click here

As the course is unmarked, you need to be able to navigate your own ride. How you navigate is up to you. If you want cue cards or paper maps that is perfectly OK. Most will upload a GPX version of the route into their cycling computer and follow that.

We expect every individual rider to be able to navigate the route. There may be times where you are riding solo and this is a very big remote area.  Do not rely on your mobile phone, as reception is often non-existent. You could use your phone as a backup as many apps allow you to download the route when offline and will then even work if the phone is in Flight Mode.

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What do you mean by remote area?

The majority of this event takes place a long way from civilisation. There is little to no traffic on these roads and no facilities. Except for Victoria Hotel Moonan Flat Pub, there are no shops along the route. There are very few residents available to assist you. Of course, the organisers will do what we can to help should you be unable to continue and still a long way from the finish but having a PLB or SPOT Tracker is mandatory.

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Is there mobile phone coverage?

Not really, apart from in Gloucester and limited Telstra reception at Moonan Flat. We recommend you do not rely on your mobile phone for navigation or communication, BUT do have the route downloaded to your phone (offline mode) as a backup.

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Do I need a SPOT or PLB?

You are riding at your own risk but for this event a satellite-based tracker such as SPOT,  InReach or PLB is MANDATORY and you will need to show us your chosen tracker at registration.  A SPOT Tracker or a Garmin InReach device are great for those at home to follow your progress. We will have a page you can subscribe to on Maprogress. A PLB is good in that it will directly contact AUSAR when activated. If you don’t have one, hire, borrow or buy one.

You can contact http://www.epirbhire.com.au/ or Blue Mountains Police Rescue or even the NPWS.  

Note: For the Overnighter, being on Maprogress provides the organisers with a way of tracking your progress. If you are coming alone or are inexperienced in the type of riding, please consider using a SPOT Tracker or Garmin InReach. It’s also a good idea to ask someone who is not riding this event to monitor your progress and be available to accept any messages you send via your subscription.

Note: If you are riding in the Scratch Race, You must have a SPOT Tracker or Garmin InReach. Your registration on Maprogress is included in your rego fee. Please provide your tracker ID details to mike@graveleur.cc

(Really! Don’t skip this.  See Mandatory Gear to be inspected at registration.  The list is right at the bottom of this page.  IMPORTANT!)

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What bike do I need to take?

The route is perfect for a Gravel Bike, Cyclocross or Mountain Bike – consider running the biggest rubber that will fit your steed – run at least 38-42mm tyres with at least some tread (ie. not slicks).

Please don’t bring your roadie, even if you have 28mm tyres on it. Many of the roads are hard with large chunks of embedded rocks. A mountain bike would be fine.  It may not be as quick on the open roads, but you will be thankful for the MTB gearing at certain points.

There are two big climbs. This first climb is around 1000 vm and the second is about 800 vm which gets over 15%. Low gears would be nice. Some highly experienced riders ran 42F x 32R (ratio 1.31 with 29er Wheel) as their lowest gear in 2018 and found that quite challenging. We would recommend having at least a 1.00 gear ratio available to use, if not lower.

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What is the quality of the roads?

The roads are of varying quality gravel roads with very limited bitumen. Depending on when they were last graded, they can be very compacted gravel with large embedded sharp rocks which can be challenging to ride. There is lots of smooth gravel as well as some more washed out gravel roads.

There are two sections where extra care should be taken. The descent on the western side of Barrington Tops is fairly smooth and fast but with some very sharp switchbacks. It also lack guard rails at many points. In addition there is a very steep and loose descent on the northern return section on Stage 2.  In years gone by we have had a few riders come down, especially on the descent into Moonan Flat.  If you think you are going fast, PLEASE slow down.  If you think you are going about the right speed, you are probably still going too fast to be safe.  Please, if this is your first time, really be careful.  There are no prizes for being the fastest down-hiller. Make sure your brakes are in absolute tip top shape. Yes you should have them professionally bled and new pads installed before the ride.

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What spares do I need?

Everything to get you through the ride, but if your bike is well maintained then punctures are the main thing you need to be prepared for. Keeping in mind that there are no bike shops along the way, consider your worse case scenario and plan for that.  For example, let’s say you have been unlucky and had a few punctures. You are on your own, you are out of tubes and canisters. If you have a hand pump and a some patches you might be able to repair a tube to get you out of trouble.  A $5.00 note is always handy for blocking a torn sidewall.  Tubeless setup for tyres is recommended.

Other spares you might consider would be a chain breaker, a spare quick link and a spare Derailleur hanger.

In addition to this you must carry a basic first aid kit and space blanket.

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Do I need to train for this event?

Yes you need to train for this event to make the time cut. We’d suggest something like the following, starting 8 weeks out from the event, with weeks 4 and 8 being an easy/recovery week.

4 sessions per week

#1 – 1 hour on the trainer doing intervals targeting your threshold, say 2 x 20mins at your threshold HR or Watts, 5 mins recovery between efforts. Try and maintain the same average heart rate for both intervals.

#2 – Hill repeats, find a 10 minute climb (*) near home and try to do 5 repeats without getting slower each time, recover on the ride back down.

#3 – bunch ride for fun, 2 hours, just enjoy it, coffee ride.

#4 – a long ride on the weekend, at least 4 hours with a few efforts and hills thrown in, practice your eating and drinking on the bike. That will get you up to about 250km in a week. Do it for 3 weeks, then have a quiet week, then another 3 weeks of the same program. Leave a week recovery/taper week just before the event and that will put in in good shape to tackle Thunderbolts Adventure.

(*) The idea of hill repeats is to prepare your cardiovascular system for sustained climbing. Its also useful to do them seated at a low cadence, try 60rpm which helps to build strength. In terms of pace, you want to do it as fast as you can, but not so fast that you are blown by the 3rd repeat. So go a little easy on your first one, then try and do the same time for the next 4 repeats. By the end of the 5th repeat you should hit fatigue. If you can’t maintain the time for all 5, start a little slower next time. If you achieve the same time for all 5 repeats, then next time, try and go 10-20 seconds faster for the same climb. Your heart rate is a good indicator too. You should be able to do all 5 repeats at around 85% of your max heart rate. Any hill longer than 10 minutes is too long for this type of training, so just ride up the hill for 10 mins and remember where you get to, then turn around. Try and get to the same point in 10 minutes for the next 4 repeats.

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What if I want to pull out of the event?

Please don’t rely on someone picking you up along the way. You might be lucky and there will be several support vehicles on course as well as a sweep, but they have limited capacity. Remember, there is no sag wagon. If you get to Moonan Flat and are unable to continue the next day, you need to find your own way back to the start. The locals are friendly – one rider was lucky to get a lift back to Gloucester with a local farmer one year, but you should have your own emergency transport plan ready to mobilise and come get you if your wheel’s have come off.

Most importantly, let the organisers know as soon as you can if you are not going to make it to the finish line for each stage. (Text 0408420018 with your NAME and updated status)

Do I need lights?

Yes. While you will most likely reach the end of the stage each day before it gets dark, lights are a good safety measure so please bring at least one rear flashing red light and a solid white front light with 4 hours capacity.

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Is there insurance for this event?

Yes. This year we will be aligned with AusCycling.  This provides Public Liability Insurance for the organiser Graveleur Pty Ltd.  For 2023, ALL riders must have a suitable license from AusCycling. This protects you and those around you in case of an accident. When you enter, you can choose to enter your existing license number or purchase either a Day Licence as part of your entry or register for a free 4 week trial with AusCycling. For AusCycling, you can see a summary of the insurance provided to members here

You should also consider taking out Private Health Insurance with ambulance cover. The route is entirely on open public roads in remote terrain. The route will not be marked. We expect that other riders will do what they can to help you should you suffer a misfortune, but in the end you are responsible for yourself.  

There will be a disclaimer releasing Graveleur of all liability when you enter.  You should read this carefully (it is not too long) and ensure that you are happy to accept the disclaimer as a condition of entry.

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What is cost of the event?

Included in your entry fee is the following:

  • 2 days of riding on some of the best champagne gravel roads in Australia
  • Your dinner Saturday night and breakfast Sunday morning in a quaint country pub
  • Concierge Service to transfer your tent to and from Moonan Flat
  • Professional event pics from ReadyAimMedia
  • Entertainment Saturday night at the pub
  • On course Feed zone and mechanical support
  • Fully insured event with approval from local council and authorities
  • Goodies bag including your own limited edition commemorative patch
  • A huge cache of prizes kindly donated by our sponsors. Prizes will be allocated on a first entered, best prize basis. Enter earlier for the chance of a better prize!
  • A nominal camping fee will also be included in every entry (whether you camp or not is up to you).

We will be reimbursing expenses for the support vehicles as well a funding the ongoing development of the Graveleur Community.  Finally we will be making a substantial contribution from the Gravel Cycling Community (you) to our partner in Uganda – The Masaka Cycling Club.  The event is run on a cost recovery basis and relies on volunteers for it to go ahead.

The total cost per rider including 3rd party transaction fees will be $225. Early bird pricing for the first 5 days after entries open will be frozen at 2022 price ie. $205 including 3rd party transaction fees so get in quick. Note that the advertised price now includes 3rd party transaction fees as per a recent change in Australian consumer law ie. Ticketing platforms must include all charges within the advertised entry fee.

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Where do I sleep on Saturday night?

Some people who get in early will have the luxury of a warm bed in one of the few rooms at the Moonan Pub.  The Hotel is our event centre for Saturday night. You can get food and drinks when you arrive and your dinner is included in the entry.

The remainder of the riders will camp at the Rodeo Ground near the end of Moonan St. If you are planning to camp, we can get your tent dropped off at the rodeo ground – one less thing to carry on your bike.  This will be dropped back at the Roundabout Inn Gloucester at the end of Day 2 for you to collect.

The pub are also offering a limited number of two man stand up tents with mattresses.  Again this is at your own cost and is not covered by the entry fee.  Contact the Moonan Pub for further information.

Please note.  Carrying your tent for you is a courtesy performed by volunteers and whilst we will do everything we can to ensure the security of your trusty shelter, no liability will be taken for any missing items.  If you label your tent with your name, keep it to a minimum size and ensure it is packed and left in the designated area at the designated time on Sunday morning, we are pretty confident you will be reunited with it back in Gloucester at the finish.

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Mandatory Gear

You as a rider will be required to carry mandatory gear which will be checked at registration sign on:
a.) Helmet (AS approved)
b.) Warm hat
c.) Waterproof jacket with sleeves and tape sealed seams. We also recommend (not mandatory) Spare Base Torso layer, warm tights, full fingered gloves
d.) Spares kit: Must contain two spare tubes (if using tubeless you also carry at least 1 tube as an emergency back-up), a bike pump, a multi-tool, tyre levers, patch kit and a chain breaker. A speed link and spare derailleur hanger is also recommended (not mandatory)
e.) First Aid kit – Including bandages, plasters, tape, gauze, whistle and a survival blankets. We also recommend carrying pain relief medication for headaches, sunscreen and electrolyte replacement powder for cramps, along with other medications you might need (e.g. prescription or hay fever medication). Water purification tabs are also well worth bringing.
f.) An EPIRB/PLB/SPOT/Garmin InReach device. Basically a communication devices that uses GPS to track your location and can activate an emergency alert if required.  We will allow one device to be carried between two people but you must remain in sight of each other AT ALL TIMES between the start and finish of each stage and you must nominate who your buddy is when entering the event.

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Tell me more about the Elite Stage Race

As mentioned above, we intend to run an Elite race category with prize money (or prizes).  In 2023, the race will be a 2 day stage race. Previous years have featured different formats. You need to apply to join this special category. Please send your Strava profile to info@graveleur.cc. Admittance will be based on recent history of racing, volume, KOMs etc.. This race has some additional rules and requirements as follows:

Being a race means that all riders are treated equally and that the winner will be the first male and female to cross the finish line in the shortest time after the start. Drafting and teamwork is allowed, but riders must not seek any external assistance other than what is available to all riders.

There will be a bunch start at a time to be advised. You may start later if you wish, but there will be no adjustment to your finish time. The start will be marshalled by a Graveleur representative and you will need to register with them at least 30 mins before the start time.

You must log your ride on Strava. The course runs via the Moonan Pub and finishes at the corner of Boundary St and Thunderbolts Way. This is the safest point in case of a sprint finish. A link to a GPX file for the course will be provided in the week prior to the event.

You must not seek outside assistance that is not publicly available to all riders (ie. food, mechanical support etc.). If you get a lift with a member of the public to a place to get help, you must ride back to the place you were picked up from then continue your ride. If you come across a rider who needs medical attention.  Please assist them and stay with them until other help has arrived. You ride time will be adjusted for the time you were stationary.

You must carry a SPOT or Garmin InReach Tracker and advise your Tracker ID to mike@graveleur.cc. We will register you on our Maprogress page. This is very important for safety.  Note that an EPIRB or emergency beacon is NOT suitable for this category.

Prize money (or prizes) will be split evenly between the first female and first male to complete the course. This will be judged by the organisers by reviewing the Strava ride of each registered rider. Decision is final.

You must have a valid AusCycling RACE license for this category.

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COVID-19

Below is the information relevant to COVID for the event. Bottom line is you MUST be fully vaccinated to enter AND do not attend if there is a chance you are infectious with the disease.

I acknowledge the contagious nature of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the “novel coronavirus”) and voluntarily assume the risk that I may be exposed to or infected by the novel coronavirus by attending and/or participating in the event, and that such exposure or infection may result in personal injury, illness, permanent disability, and death.

I understand that the risk of becoming exposed to the novel coronavirus or persons with the COVID-19 disease at the event may result from the actions, omissions, or negligence of myself and others, including, but not limited to, other participants or the organisers.

I knowingly and voluntarily agree to comply with and adhere to all COVID-19-related safety and risk mitigation practices during my attendance and participation in the event, whether communicated verbally or in writing.

I confirm that at the time of the event, I will be fully vaccinated and will agree to produce a current valid vaccination certificate if asked to do so by the Organisers

I acknowledge and agree that my compliance with these safety and mitigation practices is not only for my own benefit but also for the benefit of other participants and the organisers of the event.

I voluntarily assume the risk that I may be exposed to the novel coronavirus or persons with the COVID-19 disease as a result from a failure to comply with such practices.

Further, notwithstanding the foregoing, I agree that I will neither attend nor participate in an event if I have, within the past 14 days:

(i) have a suspected/confirmed case of COVID-19;

(ii) experienced any symptoms of COVID19 including, without limitation, fever, cough or shortness of breath; or

(iii) have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 (or any known symptoms thereof).

I agree that the Organiser can pass on contact details as well as timing data to Australian Health Authorities if they ask for it.

In case newly introduced government regulations make running the event impossible my entry will automatically be transferred to a future event. No refunds will be issued.

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Refund Policy

The following refund policy applies, unless strictly advised otherwise from the event organiser.

1. If you wish to withdraw from a Graveleur event up to 14 days prior to the event (or greater), you shall advise the Organiser by email info@graveleur.cc. A refund of the entry fee less a $20 administration fee will apply.

2. If you wish to withdraw from this event within 14 days from the event start date any decision to refund any part of the entry fee (including nil) is at the sole discretion of the Organiser.  

3. If withdrawing for medical reasons (including COVID-19), please inform the Organiser by email info@graveleur.cc with an accompanying medical certificate. Any refund made will be a maximum of the entry fee less a $90 withdrawal fee.

4. The Organiser, in its sole discretion, may delay, modify, or cancel the Event if it believes the conditions prior to the event day will be unsafe. If the Event is delayed, modified, or cancelled for any reason, including but not limited to acts of God or the elements (including without limitation, wind, rough water, rain, hail, hurricane, tornado, earthquake), acts of terrorism, fire, threatened or actual strike, labour difficulty, work stoppage, insurrection, war, public disaster, flood, unavoidable casualty, pandemic, event course conditions, or any other cause beyond the control of the Organiser, participants may request a refund of any participant entry fees or choose to transfer their paid entry to a future event. There will be no payment for any other costs incurred by participants in connection with the event.

5. The Organiser, in its sole discretion, may delay, modify, or cancel the Event if it believes the conditions on the event day are or will be unsafe following the commencement of the event. If, the Event is delayed, modified, or cancelled for any reason, including but not limited to acts of God or the elements including without limitation, wind, rough water, rain, hail, hurricane, tornado, earthquake), acts of terrorism, fire, threatened or actual strike, labour difficulty, work stoppage, insurrection, war, public disaster, flood, unavoidable casualty, pandemic, event course conditions, or any other cause beyond the control of the Organiser there will be no refund of any participant entry fees paid. There will be no payment for any other costs incurred by participants in connection with the event.

6. Entries are non-transferable to another rider EXCEPT via the entry system.  A transfer fee shall apply to riders transferring their entry to another rider.  For riders who independently give their entry to a new rider outside of the entry system, the entry shall be invalid and the new rider shall not be permitted to start. Discount codes used in conjunction with an entry are subject to final approval by the organiser. A discount may be refused and an entry may be cancelled if it is clear a discount code has been used by an unauthorised entrant.

7. Note that Transaction fees included in your entry fee are not refundable

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