Hellfire Cup Tasmania

With the UK Mountain Bike Race scene on winter hibernation, and a lot of work going on behind the scenes to prepare the TORQ Performance MTB Team for the 2014 season, there hasn’t been any racing news for some time. 
On the other side of the planet our sister company, TORQ Australia, with their equally professional mountain bike race team, are in full mid season race mode and recently sent us this report from the Hellfire Cup in Tasmania; an epic 4 day, 7 stage Mountain Bike Race held on the 21-24th November. TORQ Australia director, Dean Clarke, brings us the story.
While most of the team travelled with me on the boat across the tasmin, those that flew into Hobart were greeted to a reasonably dry day.  Unfortunately that was short lived because that was the only dry weather we had for the rest of the week.
The ferry trip was pretty smooth and we headed down to Hobart airport to pick up the two 6 berth motor homes and to meet our guide for the week, who would teach us everything we needed to know about Tasmania (ACJ owner of the Huon Genesys’ road team). We picked up who we needed and headed down the coast to set up TORQ world at the event centre with the campers, tents and our small trailer ensuring we would get through the week with all the creature comforts we needed.
We had a number of teams entered; Em & Tris, Tas & Liam, Jenni & row  (which changed at the last minute) Kat & Sarah, Fenz & Forbsey, Jack & Nathan.  Through our association with ACJ and Steve Price, the  owners of the ‘Huon Genesys’ Road Team, Jack teamed up with his road team mate and Team Sky bound Nathan Earl, who hasn’t really done that much mountain biking before but fancied having a bit of fun and the chance to win some prize money on his home soil!
Expectations were high for everyone in the team but this was certainly the case for Jack and Nath.  It was going to be a big ask for them to take the win as they had to overcome the superstar pairing of Anton Cooper (U23 World Cup and Cannondale Factory Pro) and our old team mate (World Cup XC Winner and Trek World Racing Pro), Dan McConnell.
The first day of racing was about 20 km long which included a fair amount of climbing on fire road/four wheel drive track as well as some freshly cut single tracks. The whole team performed brilliantly considering the conditions; Nathan surprised everyone with his MTB skills and managed to stick close to Jack, losing only 1 min 10 seconds on the superstar pairing of Anton and Dan.
There were plans to do an afternoon stage but the organizers decided to cancel it because of the rain and move all non 4 wheel drive vehicles to higher and safer ground (meaning our whole TORQ set up!).  The only other down side to the wet conditions and moving was that Fenz crashed out on stage 1 causing Forbsey to ride lone wolf, along with Sarah, due to Kat getting sick for the remainder of the week.
Day 2 brought more rain but also the potential of Jack and Nathan making back some time in the men’s elite race, while everyone else in the team chased their own category glory. Once again, the course got modified because of the rain which was a blessing in disguise for us; the less single track the better for Nathan! The format was a 20 km relay race consisting of a massive 22 min climb followed by some very fast, wet, descending on single track/four wheel drive tracks. The massive climb suited Jack and Nathan, and Nathan went out first and came in approximately 30 seconds behind the lead group of 3, including Dan, which meant that Jack had a lot of work to do and that myself, ACJ and Fenz thought it was all over red rover.
This turned out to be foolish thinking as Jack dug deep and put in a massive effort on the climb. He caught the 3 leaders, sat in, recovered and then attacked, dropping all of them, with Anton the last to go. From the finish line, we didn’t know what was going on (no comms) but were blown away when we saw Jack coming up the road in 1st spot followed by Paul V in 2nd and Anton in 3rd, just 2 minutes 10 seconds down.
The rest of the team also did great with some real standout performances.  14 year old Liam hung onto Andy Blair’s wheels for 20 km, which was an amazing effort by the team young superstar. Forbsey smashed it in lone wolf along with Sarah, Tas, Em, Tris and Jen, in pairs. Spirits were also high, not just because of the results, because the sun had finally come out so we could dry out, clean and fix our bikes without freezing.
Stage 3 was again affected by the weather and the course was changed to a 17 km, mostly fire road, stage. The stage suited Nathan and Jack and they only really had to mark Anton and Dan to stay in first position on GC after Jack’s ride on stage 2. They managed to do this with the stage coming down to a bunch sprint with 10 guys including lone wolf Fobsey, Tristan Ward and Em Parks.
The next day brought yet more rain and another stage change. A sprint/eliminator style of race with each pair racing on a roughly 1 min 10 seconds, grassy, oval course. This meant that all Jack and Nathan had to do was have nothing go wrong, like a broken chain, and they were in the money! They were successful and took out GC. The other stand outs in the eliminator were Em and Tris,not surprising as Em has shown she can match it with the best when it comes to that format.
All in all, it was a great week despite all the problems with bike washing, showers, food and, of course, the weather. We all had a lot of fun from the ferry trip to the camping and there is definitely a lot of potential in this event to become one of the must-do events on the year. Duncan, the race director, has listened to all the feedback and has learnt a lot to ensure next year will be bigger and better.
Thanks to all of our team riders who participated, our sponsors, who ensure the team grows every year, Andrew (ACJ) (Huon genesys), for all his support over the 4 days in very trying conditions and also for putting up with us all moaning about how crappy the Tasmanian weather was.  Also, a massive thanks to the SRAM for being there and resurrecting our bikes every day, along with Ed who tirelessly serviced our bikes and forks every morning.
PS It would be very rude to say we were sad to leave Tasmania but we truly were LOL! The moment we arrived back in Melbourne, we had 4 perfect days of sunny weather, where the rest of the team joined us, along with some previous team mates,  for our team training camp in Melbourne.