Alright, I’m going to be honest here. If you’re expecting a highly detailed race report, expect to be disappointed. It’s 9:30pm, I’ve been racing for 3 days straight, I’ve eaten about 6 tacos, and the effect of several glasses of Ironhouse Porter is taking a hold of my fatigued body. So I’ll keep things brief.
I’m currently standing beside the finish line in transition, watching a bunch of riders come through after the optional Stage 6 of the Hellfire Cup: the Night Stage. Following a 9km course around the race village, some 30 or so competitors have just duked it out, lights and all. If anything, it made for a brilliant spectacle for the rest of us as they chased each other along the mountain ridgeline, sending beams of light throughout the treetops. This was an optional stage, with the incentive being $1000 cash up for grabs for the fastest lady across the line (to be honoured as the Queen of Kellevie) and the fastest bloke (the King of Kellevie). As is becoming a familiar sight over the past three days of racing, Tasman Nankervis crossed the line first, while Peta Mullens took out the cash for the ladies. Great stuff!
However, none of that meant anything to the overall standings of the Hellfire Cup. What did count was this afternoon’s Stage 5: The Muc-Off Sidewinder Relay.
Following the end of this morning’s blistering Team Time Trial stage out at Hellfire Bluff, we headed back to event HQ for lunch and some downtime. To get there though, the entire field of competitors were strung out in a huge congregation that snaked its way along the 9km dirt road route, accompanied by a lead vehicle out in front. This turned out to be a great opportunity to chat to other riders and hear about their experiences from the previous two days of racing.
By the time we rolled back into the campsite, I’ll admit that I was absolutely shattered. As with Day 1, a lull fell over the event site between the morning and afternoon race stages, as riders retreated into their tents for a chance to stretch out tight hamstrings and rest up weary muscles.
Stage 5 kicked off at 5:30pm, meaning we’d be racing the following hour or so under orange-tinged clouds and a setting sun. The race itself was a simple relay event, with riders taking turns to do one lap each of a 10km course. As you’ve probably gathered already, us Lone Wolfers were left to complete both laps on our own. Urgh.
While the morning’s stage had been all about the speed and drafting tactics, the afternoon’s stage was all about pure, technical, cross-country mountain biking. The course, as usual, was awesome, following a similar route to the 6.5km stage we’d raced on Thursday afternoon. Despite that course route being laser etched into my brain, some additional singletrack was added to bulk up the distance, along with a couple of stretches on a grassy hill slope that was absolute torture in the headwind.
With competitors once again racing shoulder to shoulder, many tyres spun and much dirt was flung in the first couple of km’s of racing, as riders jostled for position. There hadn’t been a whole lot of change to the overall classification from the mornings Team Time Trial stage, so this relay stage could be an opportunity to make up some valuable seconds before the final days racing.
During my first lap, I attempted to hold a decent tempo without overdoing it. Blowing out after going too hard on the first lap is typically my signature move, so I knew I had to dial it back to finish strong. As the riding field thinned out in front of me, a great battle between the female pairs 1st and 2nd position ensued, with Karen Hill and Naomi Williams sparring on the singletrack. Watching the two riders trade moves to try and shake the other one off was super exciting, and I had the best seat in the house!
In the end, Naomi Williams would end up crossing the line first, sending her race partner Rebecca Locke out for the final lap, while Jenni King chased her down. As it turned out though, Jenni was just too strong on the rocky singletrack, and she put over a minute on her competitors as she stomped through to victory. Brooke Rowlands & Eliza Kwan rounded out the top-3 in the Elite Female Pairs category.
In the Male Pairs category, the combo of Mark Tupalski & Kyle Ward finally had some luck, with their race panning out in stunning form as they took the win in just under 54 minutes. And if you know how rocky and technical the climbing is on that 10km loop, you’ll know that is a damn fast time. They put in over a minute ahead of the 4Shaw DYAD fellas of Tom Goddard & Scott Bowden, with the TORQ team of Tasman Nankervis & Chris Hamilton coming in 3rd.
The Bendigo powerhouse team of Peta Mullens & Jarrod Moroni came through with the goods on Stage 5, but only after edging out the TORQ Mixed team of Holly Harris & Tristan Ward by one second – how close is that! Just 8 seconds later, and the Kiwi Devil team of Ben Bradley & Samara Sheppard took out 3rd.
Overall, it was still a tight stage of racing. With additional local riders turning up this morning to compete in the Hellfire Cup’s ‘Half Satan’ category, there were even more riders out on course and even more spectators making noise as we dashed in and out of transition. It made for a brilliant contrast with the morning’s Team Time Trial stage, with plenty of hollering and hooting as competitors finished off their teams final lap.
For full results, head to www.hellfirecup.com for the rundown. We’ve still got two more stages to go down tomorrow, so stay tuned for our final race report on the 2015 Hellfire Cup!