The Hellfire Cup marked the end of season for myself and my SXC Racing team mate Mike. The Hellfire Cup had mixed reports from the previous year, but I could think of no better way then finishing off a season than doing a mtb roadtrip to unknown trails with a bunch of mates. And I would have to say, it more than lived up to expectations.
We had organized a house for 6 of us, Shippo and Jonny Odams, the Ward Brothers, and a couple of SXC Racing Masters to keep these young fellas honest. We also had Pete (Cyclery Northside) and Drew (Shimano / Cuore) staying just down the road. On arrival we knew the place was going to be something special. Our humble abode known as Wielangta was nestled into a little private wilderness area, right next to the main trail network and within a couple of kilometres of the Hellfire Race HQ.
Heading down to registration we quickly worked out what this race was all about. Tasmanian raw wilderness, country hospitality, and a group of like minded people wanting to experience not just another race, but a social occasion - a festival even. At the race village we were immediately greeted by Duncan (the pioneer behind the event) with a fantastic smile and welcome. He seemed personally honoured that a bunch of Sydney siders had travelled so far for his event. His greetings quickly turned into updates on all the work that they had done to the area and trails in the last year. New trails, updates to old trails and connections, with descriptions of the Serpent, Eye of a needle, Midnight delight and Organic had us all frothing to get out for a ride. And we weren't the only ones, MTB'ers had come from WA, SA, VIC all to give the event a look, supplemented by the local contingent.
Rego complete we headed out for an explore, and Duncan's enthusiasm wasn't lost. The trails were truly something to behold. Not a buffed racetrack, but hand carved trails carefully constructed at one with the surroundings. Natural, ORGANIC, plenty of rocks, sticks, trees, and changes of direction to keep you on your toes. This is the essence of MTB'g, and its great to come to a place like Hellfire to remember what MTB'g is really about. Our day was rounded out with a few beers, with tales about how good the trails are and what we could look forward to in the days ahead. Already a great trip and the race hadn't even started !
The Hellfire Cup, is actually a stage race made up of a number of independent stages. Teams of 2 complete the stages either individually or as a team, depending on the format of the day. For me this really made the event that something a little different. It gave you a chance to ride together with your mate, but allowed the opportunity for you to individually challenge yourself. All results combining for a total team score. The stages were put together as follows:
Stage 1: 26km XC loop - ridden together as a team
Stage 2: 4x6km XC loop. Riders tag and alternate lap on, lap off
Stage 3: 45km XC loop - ridden together as a team
Stage 4: 16km - '2-Up' Team Time Trial
Stage 5: 2x11km lap race. Riders tag and alternate lap on, lap off
Final Stage - Split stage: Rider A - 3km hill-climb and descent, Rider B - 2km Dirt Crit
1hour break. Reverse roles, and add all times together….
All stages started at the central Race HQ / Event centre making things convenient for campers and interstate travellers. The great location of the event centre was also used for many of the shorter stages with riders racing the XC network around the event centre, with team mates and supporters cheering each other on throughout the event.
The stages were awesome, hard to compare to other races as the country and trails are very unique. The longer stages of day 1 and 2 we were faced with big climbs and challenging decents on raw firetrail or overgrown double track. Tassie has some BIG hills, and I personally suffered from the overnight beers on more than one occasion. These were intertwined with some awesome singletrack, that kept the racing challenging and competitive. In fact after 3 days racing many of the teams were separated by less than 30sec - 1min heading into the final day.
I personally liked the Team Time Trial (TTT). All participants cruised the 9km to the Time Trial start, located at the farm of one of the locals. Each team then had to complete a 16km Time Trial departing at 30 sec intervals on roads and double track surrounding the property. With Teams starting slowest to fastest, gave all teams a chance to challenge themselves and hopefully gain some time on surrounding teams, or hold off teams that were battling in there own category. Mike drove the TTT hard, with me just 'holding on' to get to the end where we were greeted to cheering groups of racers and participants who had finished earlier and were talking about their own individual exploits. To top it off, we all cruised as a group back to race HQ along the rolling Tassie farmland roads - talking, catching up with new and old friends - a fantastic way to close out the stage.
In the end Mike and I (SXC Racing), came in a close third in the Masters Category, to some new friends from the Giant Bootleg Racing and Syntace Plastyq Racing teams. This is what the event is all about. Making new friends, catching up with old ones and riding some fantastic trails.
To close off the event we were hosted to an afternoon at the event centre in sunny perfect weather, drinking local Tassie beer and cider - you have to love when a brewery sponsors an event, listening to some great tunes from some local bands, with us all wondering why these things have to end so soon.
A special thanks to Duncan for making us Sydney siders feel so welcome, the local communities of Dunalley, Copping and Kellevie for keep us well fed and watered, and of course our team mates. These trips are nothing without a few mates to share our exploits with.
Pictures thanks to https://www.facebook.com/pages/Avantiplus-Hellfire-Cup/128392527345522?r...