The inaugural Hellfire cup (Avantiplus Hellfire Cup) was held in Kellevie found at the southern end of the east coast of Tasmania, just in land of Marion Bay, it was originally planned for the previous February, sadly though the area and surrounding communities were devastated by bush fires. Not to be beaten by the fires however and with endless amounts of work no doubt, the event was rescheduled for November, and so we added it to our race program and looked forward to an adventure in Tassie. Always I am sticking up for Tassie when conversations on the weather arise, arguing the point about just how nice it can be, the most beautiful of days, glorious sunshine, brilliant clear blue skies, and a really bad place for sunburn! Well for three of the four days of Hellfire cup we ended up under grey skies, and experienced some full on down pours of rain, but I must say this is very out of place for November, not to mention the week before it had been beautiful weather according to the locals, and now I can report the week after the same! It was almost as if the weather God’s had seen this bunch of mountain bikers packing all their gear and thought, “mmmm lets have some fun, lets see how muddy we can make this lot!”.
We flew into Launceston to pick up all our borrowed camping gear from my family, as well as a ute for the adventure, a big thanks to the guys at Launceston Truck and Mini Bus rentals for sorting us out. We had finally decided to camp for a race, normally we always stay in comfort, but this time we wanted to experience all the fun of the race village, not to mention lose our ‘soft’ reputation just a little! We did though stay the night before in comfort, purely so we could get in the best pre-race feed at our favourite burger joint, only found in Tassie “Burger Got Soul” , it has become a ritual stop for us, this trip being no exception! If you are heading to Gods country there is one in Launceston and Hobart, I should point out we don’t know these guys at all, we are just hooked on the place, they just do seriously good healthy burgers and awesome chips, we are pretty fussy too! I am a fan of the “Soul Mumma” and Bec’s fav is the “Funky chicken”, the names got us!
Back to the racing, the race format was based around pairs team racing, male, female or mixed pairs, it also included a solo category, Lone Wolf, for those without a mate! It had a large prize poll and had attracted some very big names and a high class field. There was to be 7 stages spread over four days. Some raced with your team mate, having to ride and finish together, others relay style lap on lap off, and others would be a choice between two races e.g. a hill climb time trail or a dirt crit, choosing one team member to do one and the other team member to do the other. The Lone Wolf’ers would have to do everything! Bec and myself had not raced as a pair where we actually had to ride together and finish together, we were excited by the format but also slightly nervous not knowing how it would go given we both have the tendency to get red line race fever, not to mention we had both had less than great lead in both having time off the the bike due to some body problems, we didn’t really know how each of us was travelling in relation to each other! I sorted out a Go Pro for the the race, envisaging some possible funny or even heated moments out on the trails, not necessary funny at the time but bound to be after the fact, so thought we best be prepared! :) ( a bit like FORREST 6 HOUR )
Our 5am departure from Launceston for the race saw us being caught in what I can only describe as raining cattle and horses, at one point it was looking like we wouldn’t even make it to the start due to the weather, it did though ease as we headed south. An update from the race organisers early that morning via social media (little did we know that these updates would become a daily exercise, having us sitting waiting in excitement to see what tomorrow would hold) advising on the weather didn’t look great, with the forecast suggesting the area would cop a staggering 100-250mm of rain over the race period, it was pretty apparent that the race was not going to be held its original format, talk about bad luck for the organisers! We arrived with not much time to spare, the village all set up, most though hiding in their cars or tents (this hiding in the car thing seems to be the done thing at races of late) It was a beautiful destination in the surrounds of the bush and hills as well as including a little river to boot, a deep long breath of the fresh clean bush air gave you a big kick of life, just the way you want it really!
Stage one was a 25km loop to be ridden with your team mate. With everyone lined up and the anticipation growing, staying close to their other half (apart from the lone wolfers) all of a sudden there was a very loud count down and bang we were off! A lap of the race village saw things stretch out as we set out on what was to be a great loop of some awesome single track, be it pretty muddy, combine with some solid fire road climbing. There was in fact a fair bit of mud which in some sections saw it almost impossible to ride, unless you just wanted to spin around in circles. We had a blast on the single track, I had a saw jaw from smiling so much at the end, we rode together pretty good at our first attempt and came in second in the female pairs, behind Rebecca Henderson and Katrin Stiremann. The little river at the village became a bath, shower, bike wash, washing machine as all the muddy creatures cleaned them selfs up to look more human again, here we stumbled upon some friends, they had set up all the tents etc the day before at the village but upon seeing the forecast pulled them all back down again and went off to find a cabin park, smart lot, we followed them home to find our self’s a room at the park also, yes soft! The afternoon stage was cancelled, and those camping at the village were advised to move to higher ground!
Day two, at a new village location on higher ground, the stage was changed from a 45km ride together stage, to a 20km loop mass start relay, each team member to do one lap. It was mostly fire road but with a little single track. Funny enough, the sun came out and it was actually a pretty nice day, but the little bit of single track made sure we would still end up muddy! We had a couple of mishaps, I was to go off first, but had a mechanical almost at start time, the result was that we almost both went off on lap one, this would have made for in interesting conversation about who was going to do lap two! Bec ended up out there for lap one, and had a good ride. I headed out and with my head down chasing a couple of guys ,not racing, ahead and accidentally took the tourist route to have a quick look at the view of Marion Bay (I think), lucky those guys realised I was racing and yelled constantly at me until I finally realised I had missed the turn! The single track was only a small percent of the race, it was at times more like a river than a track, rocks, lots of water and lots and lots of mud, resulting in everyone in a mud pack again. We lost a bit of time in this stage on the leaders but still had fun!
Day three, and the weather was back to grey, the stage changed from a 15km teams time trial, to an all in mass start of the same loop, with a cruise stage out to the start and back to the event village. The start of the race was fast as we flew along the packed fire road with a big tail wind towards the bottom of the climb, we sounded like an enormous swarm of bees! The left hand turn off the fire road straight into a churned up, muddy single track saw a huge bottle neck as riders scrambled to get onto the climb and through the mud, many forced off and running till part way up the climb, we among them. We had a good start towards the front of the field but were a little way back by the time we got through the chaos, due in part to me falling over sideways and getting stuck on the ground unable to get up, looking more like a fish out of water I suspect! We recovered well though and caught Rebecca and Katrin, staying with them till the finish and getting the win. Again it was a one stage day due to the conditions, and again we all ended up very muddy!
Day four, Still grey and rainy, and to actually get a stage in we moved to the Bream Creek show ground in what was to be a super fast stage, under a couple of minutes in fact, and relatively mud free! A time trial lap of a circuit run around the show grounds / very off camber footy ground with your team mate, even passing through the beer shed. The starting order would be slowest on GC to fastest with one minutes gaps between teams. It was a fun mornings racing, be it only a very short hit out for each team. There was a great prize pool up for this stage so it insured some fast laps, there was also some funny moments and a few run ins with some wheelie bins, not by us though we rode a great lap and picked up the stage win for the women’s pairs, happy to be taking home the cash! Overall we ended up in second in women’s pairs behind Rebecca and Katrin and coming home in third was Claire Garcia-Webb and Simone McCallum. For Full race results and and more info on the event have a look at the race website – HELLFIRE CUP
Stage 4 was also the only day we put the go pro on, due to the mud, you can see our whole stage in the next post – VIDEO / HELLFIRE CUP STAGE 4 / SHORT + SWEET! Oh and we didn’t get any heated moments at all in the end there was none, first “race together” pairs race we give it a tick!
We went to the Hell Fire cup with the objective to have fun, yet as always still go out and race hard and that we did. I can honestly say we did have a great time and on several occasions I did find that my jaw was sore from smiling so much. However I think if we had stayed camping we would have killed each other by the end of the four days if not before, but in those conditions it was never going to happen, we always had the contingency plan for poor weather, that was the cabin park! And gosh did we get our moneys worth out of their showers, along with endless amounts Cuppa’s and a really nice comfy bed, I can say we were happy to stay soft for this one! Not to mention we got to hang out with some other cool softies which made it all the more fun, as well as some nightly trips into hobart for some great food, including “Burger Got Soul”! Unfortunately the race had to be changed a lot, leaving us missing some racing and also a lot of single track, but in the circumstances I would rather this than the whole thing being canned. From the single track we did get to ride, it was awesome fun, and all crew down there have put in some great work. In such difficult conditions we can only imagine all that was going on behind the scenes to actually keep the race going, so a big thanks to Duncan and all his crew for battling on! We will definitely be looking to be back next year! Oh and for the record I will still be arguing about how good Tassies weather is, yes it likes to keep you one your toes, but it would be boring if it was the same all the time! NW+ RL