“So what you’re saying is that I have to do the four laps on my own? I can’t just do 2?”
That was the question I had to pose during the downtime between Stage 1 and 2 this afternoon. After having a fantastic ride this morning on the opening 25km stage of the 2015 Avanti Plus Hellfire Cup, I was met with the harsh reality that while all of the pairs competitors would be taking turns of the 4-lap Enduro stage, I’d be battling it alone with my fellow Lone Wolfers.
Urgh. This was going to be tough.
Following Stage 1, the Hellfire event centre fell into a relaxed lull while competitors refuelled and recuperated in preparation for the afternoon’s stage. The coffee van was chugging, lunch wraps were being divvied out to competitors, and weary bodies made use of the beanbags in the main marquee. As far as mountain bike races go, the Hellfire Cup definitely exudes a more chilled out atmosphere.
Come 3pm though, we were back in business, as all the competitors amassed around race transition, ready for Stage 2. This was to be a 4 x lap cross-country enduro race, with each lap being around 6.5km, and the pairs teams taking it in turns to blast around the course. Or in the case of my fellow Lone Wolfers; 4 x continuous laps of the same course.
The 6.5km loop was made up of a shorter route, which largely ran around the perimetre of the festival site. This route took in much of the same singletrack as Stage 1 from earlier today, but with a few added descents that kept the fun factor high. Each lap gave us about 110m of vertical gain, with more of the course being undulating singletrack that kept average speeds nice and fast. Possibly the best part of the hourglass racecourse, was the section that brought us right to the edge of transition, where we were met with cheers and the jangle of cowbells.
With race partners waiting in transition for their teammates to come through and tag them for the next lap, the vibe amongst competitors and spectators was electric. While I didn’t have a teammate waiting for me in transition, I was still met with plenty of noise and cheering as I came through to begin another lap, which was just the burst of enthusiasm my tired legs needed.
The powerhouse TORQ team of Bendigo riders Tasman Nankeris & Chris Hamilton managed to hold their lead over Mark Tupalski & Kyle Ward, but only by a second. The rest of the Male Pairs category followed the same results from Stage 1, with the 4Shaw DYAD boys taking out 3rd position.
Yet again TORQ had a strong showing in the Mixed Pairs category, with Holly Harris and Tristan Ward extending their lead on the overall standings. Samara Sheppard & Ben Bradley came in just 2 minutes later, while April McDonough & Steven Cusworth hitting the finish line just 44 seconds later to round out the top 3.
The big-hitters remained in the top-3 for the Elite Women’s Pairs category, with Jenni King & Karen Hill taking the win just 30 seconds over Naomi Williams & Rebecca Locke, who had a rough start on Stage 1 earlier in the day. Brooke Rowlands & Eliza Kwan took out 3rd position.
Possibly the most impressive result of the day however, goes to Lone Wolfer Dan DeGroot, who despite having to complete all 4 laps of the Enduro stage, has managed to remain in 7th place in the overall standings. His total race time of 2:41:18 looks pretty impressive to current GC leaders of Tasman Nankervis & Chris Hamilton, who hold the fastest overall race time of 2:22:46.
There’s still plenty more to come from the remaining 6 stages of racing at the Hellfire Cup, and we’re expecting to see some movement during tomorrow’s 50km marathon race, which is the longest stage of the entire event. Stay tuned for our stage wrap-up tomorrow.
For now though, it’s time for some rehydration at the Ironhouse Brewery Bar.