This one’s going to be more of a ‘Movies for your Monday’ kinda deal. Pete Harmsen put together some awesome daily highlight videos from the event down at the Kellevie MTB Park in Tasmania. After our week of road racing in Launceston, Tas (@tasman_nan) and I drove down to Hobart to stay with FTP coach Nick Morgan for a couple of nights before the Hellfire Cup started. The two days of fun MTB riding and exploring Hobart was a much needed rest, stopping at coffee shops and trying to remember how flat bars and fat tyres worked.
The rest of the Torq/Merida MTB Team arrived on Wednesday, and we got settled in to our cabins at the Airport Caravan Park. Next year we will have to look at camping at the event… the atmosphere at the event village had me dreaming of drinking beer and sharing stories from the day before heading to bed in a tent under the stars (or in the pouring rain). This was the fourth time the Hellfire Cup has been run, and Duncan, Sarah, and the rest of the crew really put on a fun event. With seven (+1) stages over four days, it’s a lot of starting and stopping with the races vary from 3km to 40km, and racing as pairs gives a unique and fun aspect to the race… as long as you get along with your partner! Luckily Tas and I have spent a fair bit of time travelling together and help each other when the going gets tough!
Thanks for reading and enjoy the highlights.
Well done to everyone who completed the event and also everyone who made it happen. I’ll definitely be back for the next edition, keep an eye on the Hellfire website for updates because I hear it will be even more of a party next time.
The other Torq/Merida riders are Holly Harris (@hollyharris_7) and Kathryn McInerney (@kathryn_mcinerney), Ben Metcalfe (@bennymetcalfe) and Mick Harris (@mick_harris98). Here’s some of the team’s equipment for the week and throughout the year:
Motion custom cycling kit and clothing
Merida Bikes with Ryan and Tas on the Big Nine Team hardtail, the rest on the Ninety-Six Team full suspension bikes
Torq Nutrition products, Grapefruit energy drink and banoffee gels are the favorites
Bicycle Centre retail stores for local support for each rider
Mitas Tyres Scylla and Kratos
Sram XX1 Eagle drivetrains and Rockshox suspension
Met Helmets rivale
Adidas Eyewear Zonyk Aero Pro and Evil Eye Half Rim
FTP Training for coaching
Flight Centre Active Travel for flight and travel bookings
The Tour of Tasmania has been running in some form since the 1930's and has seen more than a handful of its previous winners go on to the highest level of the sport, think Cadel Evans and Richie Porte. With 5 stages starting with a prologue, 3 hilly road stages, and finishing with a criterium in Devonport, this year’s edition was set to be a tough week on the bike. With the most dominant NRS team, Isowhey Swiss Wellness, giving it a miss, it was unclear how the race would unfold. Below is the quick ‘n’ dirty from my first NRS road tour with AMR Renault Racing Team.
Travel Day: Sun 5 Nov
First, I’d like to say how much I enjoy spending time with these guys, and this week reinforced that we are not only teammates but great friends both on and off the bike. Having arrived on Sunday night we got to our accommodation (Farm house), built bikes, and were off to bed.
Day 1: Prologue, Launceston, 0.65km 50m climbing: Mon 6 Nov
Since the prologue wasn’t ‘til later in the afternoon, the team got up and went for an easy ride into Launceston for coffee before the stress of the afternoon set in. Today was definitely a mountain biker kind of day with a short, 1.5 to 2 minute switchback climb ending in nausea, blurred vision, and a strong dose of “why do I think this is fun?” The results reflected the MTB dominance, with Cam Ivory (GPM Stultz) taking out the stage followed closely by James Whelan, Tristan Ward (Ultra), myself, and Michael Potter (Ultra), making it four of the top five coming from MTB. After racing it was back to the farm for pasta, garlic bread, and salad before the infamous Russell Menzies team meeting.
Day 2, Stage 1, George Town to Grindelwald, 115.9km 1784m climbing: Tue 7 Nov
The plan for today was to have two guys looking to get in the early breakaway (Ryan and Dylan), another two guys (Dan and Blake) looking after the main GC riders (Sean and Alex) and going back to the car for food/drinks and instructions, and Julian as the road captain, planning and making on-the-fly decisions about how the race was unfolding and what needed to be done. Dylan and I wore ourselves out covering moves and being active in the early part of the race and then switched to survival role as we did our best to stay in the bunch and conserve energy for some hard climbs at the end of the stage. By the finish at the top of the climb we were mostly spread out within the main bunch of riders, with Alex finishing the highest up and not far down on the GC.
Day 3, Stage 2, Launceston to Poatina, 103.8km 1529m climbing: Wed 8 Nov
Early break patrol again today for everyone except Sean, Alex, and Julian, but again we didn’t make it in the right move although it was sure to come back as we approached Poatina. With about 10km to the bottom of the climb we rounded up all guys and made our way towards the front of the peloton to set up Sean and Alex for a potential stage win and a real crack at the GC (this was the #1 plan for the day). Executed perfectly, by the bottom of the climb a little lull in the pace allowed Sean to go off the front with Ian Talbot (Ultra). The pace was now being set by the real climbers and the further up the climb we went, the smaller the group got. They were attacking each other, and I did all I could to hang on with the group (now down to ~10 riders.) With 4km to go Alex attacked, and I knew he was going with no intention of looking back. He reeled in Ian and took the stage win along with the yellow jersey and best young rider jersey. That night around the dinner table the atmosphere was electric as everyone reminisced on the execution of the plan and Alex’s ability to climb. This also meant that the next day would be a near impossible mission to control the peloton and protect the yellow jersey. Sean and I came out of the stage both sitting in the top 10 on GC, and everyone went to bed with a nervous excitement about the rest of the week.
Day 4, Stage 3, Ulverstone to Penguin, 108.9km 1800m climbing: Thu 9 Nov
One of the hardest days I’ve ever had on the bike. An early break went with another GC contender so it was our job to chase. We rode our rings off and eventually it was only Sean and I left on the front, holding the break around 1min. Things started to wind up through Gunns Plain before going into the second cat 2 climb of the day: it was going to stay hard till the end! The group split up the climb then we worked hard to bring it back together within 10k to the finish. The final 1.5km was a steeper climb than I expected and the work from the day caught up with me, losing more time to the front guys and dropping to 12th on GC.
Day 5, Stage 4 Devonport Crit, 54km : Fri 10 Nov
After a long night’s sleep, it was time to prepare for another attempt at the early break in the crit. The first break went early but was brought back by the teams looking for sprint points. Not long after the first sprint, I found myself in a group of about ten guys off the front of the peloton and the group stayed away the rest of the day. I was in a good position in that I was trying to slow the group down so Alex didn’t lose time, and just going along for the ride with a potential to finish well in the stage. I sat on the bunch and was in a bad position for the sprint, leading to a decision to go for the win from about 1k out. It was going well as I had a little gap on the others in their leadout for sprinters, but my legs decided they didn’t want to do the last 150m, and I was rolled to finish near the back of the lead bunch with enough time to move up into 11th on GC for the week. Congrats to everyone on an exciting race, and I can’t wait till next year.
Hill Climb Sprint: this one went pretty well, again suiting the mountain bikers with Cam Ivory beating Tristan Ward in the final. I’d been knocked out by Tristan in the semi-final with his mean kick at the top of the hill.
Criterium: This was another hard crit with an early break getting away with all of the favorites. I realized a little too late that I needed to be in the move and about five guys including me put in a huge effort to try and bridge across. This move lasted the rest of the race, and we caught a few guys who were dropped from the front group and managed to not get lapped. I finished 10th just behind MTB teammate Tasman Nankervis, out of only ~15 finishers. Overall this was a great week of racing and I was looking forward to racing at the Hellfire Cup starting on Thursday.
There is a ton of work that goes on behind the scenes to make these races happen and I'd like to say a massive thank you to everyone who's there along the way! Check out the supporters of the AMR Renault Cycling Team below, and give them a follow on Facebook and Instagram to see what they're up to with the Tour of Bright coming up on Dec 1-3
Cape to Cape was a couple weeks ago now but things have been a bit busy and I've had a chance to sit down and write after the Tour of Tasmania on the road last week... That race report will be up in the coming days! So here's some words and photos from Cape to Cape 2017.
Not having raced since the Port to Port in May, I was unsure of my racing fitness. I was excited to spend the week ‘campervanning’ with teammate Tas Nankervis. The goal for the week: racing for the top step of the overall podium against the best mountain bikers in the country while having an awesome time at one of the best run mountain bike races in the country. Here’s how it unfolded!
Tues 17 Oct: Travel day 1
My 11am flight to Perth delayed until 7:30pm. Organized for Tas and his brother Russell to pick up the camper. Made it to caravan park near Perth airport at 11pm.
Wed 18 Oct: Travel day 2
Started early to get to Margaret River for registration and to ride a bit of stage 1. Another Nankervis (Bron) let us park the camper in the driveway of her accommodation.
Thurs 19 Oct: Race day 1 Xanadu Winery 55km
This was a very fast stage and started on long rolling fire roads where the pace was very high and sticks were flying everywhere. I missed the front group and had to work hard to get back on the back of it. Once we got into the single track it settled down a bit as everyone enjoyed the awesome flowing trails in compartment 10 area of the pine forest. Sitting comfortably in the group abruptly ended as I hit a log rollover wrong and was catapulted over the bars. Once I got my bearings and made sure the bike was okay the chase was back on. About 5km later I reached the back of the front group just in time for them to start attacking each other again, ensuring that I wouldn’t be able to ride to the finish with them. At 55km I saw the ‘5k to go’ sign and with a sinking feeling realized they had told us the stage was shorter than it actually was. I rode the last 5k of steep goat tracks and fire roads with heavy legs thinking this was going to be a long and hard week of racing.
Fri 20 Oct: Race day 2 morning - Leeuwin Estate 63km, afternoon – fat tyre crit
Another awesome day of racing was lined up for today, Tas and I decided to drive the camper out to Leeuwin Estate so we could get home quicker before the fat tyre crit. Again the stage started out on fire roads with sticks and debris flying everywhere at high speed before enjoying the loamy single track of the Boranup Forest. Today the front group stayed together through the single track before getting onto the Highway to Hell. I tried to look up and take in the view of the ocean laid out in front of us without losing my line through the rocks and dust at 50km/h.
After the climb back from the beach there was another rocky and sandy fire road descent where Kyle Ward didn’t see a rock and flipped over the bars, it was not pretty. I stopped to help him up and straight away could tell his collar bone was toast, he wanted to get back on and ride and he seemed to not be in too much pain. That was until he could feel the two bones pieces scraping against each other. We walked for a little while as there was meant to be an aid station about 2km further. Mark Tupalski stopped as he was going by and took over the positive vibes coordination and got Kyle the rest of the way to the first aid tent while I did my best to limit losses on time. When I got to the finish I let the organizers know what had happened, and they arranged the best way to move forward with Kyle’s situation. He’s currently in full recovery mode, walking the dogs and riding the trainer starting to prepare for next season. The organizers gave me the same time as the group of guys I was with, a true complement to the nature of the event ensuring everyone is competitive but also out there to have a good time and help others if they need it.
The afternoon stage was a race for the top 20 men and top 15 women riding around the Margaret River high school oval for 15 minutes. A very fast and spectator friendly event involving a lot of fun and hard, high intensity racing.
Sat 21 Oct: Race day 3 Colonial Brewery 56km
Waking up this morning I could tell the legs were going to have a hard time on the stage. They were slow to get going and felt like they weren’t excited for this single track heavy race. In the early part of the race, again on the dirt roads for the first 15-20km Dan McConnell, Paul Van Der Ploeg, and Chris Hamilton went for the early breakaway and nobody chased them down. Going into the “Middle Earth” single track I had a lapse in concentration and ran into a tree, getting passed by a lot of masters riders. I used all the energy I had to get around one or two at a time and eventually ran out of steam and rode the rest of the race in their group, conceding about 2 mins on the main group of riders I had been with in the first two days.
Sun 22 Oct: Race day 4 Margaret River 50km
Finally found some legs on the last day of the race! I decided to attack on the road just at the end of the neutral roll through town. I put my head down and rode my legs off for the first 5k and then looked around to find Brendan Johnston and Tas coming up behind me. I got on their wheel, and we continued working hard together to keep ahead of the chasing group. The best parts of the day was riding through the Compartment 10 trails again and working well with the two other guys. I was confident that Tas had his second place secured and was there to help him in case anything happened. Luckily we both made it through the race accident free! Our trio missed a turn coming into the last 5 or so km of the stage and ended up out on the highway for a longer than we wanted. The lead moto guided us back to the trails and the race was on again (even though we added ~1.5k to the race). Brendan started to wind it up with 800m to go. My legs decided they had had enough for the day, and I watched him and Tas ride away to finish the stage in first and second, as I came through with my best result of the week in third.
Overall, I loved the week of racing, spending time with mates, and meeting so many new people. Finishing in 7th overall, I didn’t quite get the result I was hoping for although the week definitely reminded me why I love racing mountain bikes… It’s hard, but it’s hard for everyone else too, and once you get to the finish you have so many stories to share and compare over a cold beer.
I can’t put into words the professionalism and work that has gone into making this event as good as it is. I think everyone who’s had a chance to be a part of the event over the past ten years has had a similar experience and fallen more in love with the mountain biking community for the camaraderie and easy going atmosphere that these events attract. A huge thank you again to everyone who made this trip and event possible, and I look forward to being back again next year!