In 2020 Australia gets an all-new mountain bike stage race, as the Dragon Trail hits the north-east of Tasmania running from March 26-28. This region is arguably becoming the biggest mountain bike hot spot in the country. Having hosted two Enduro World Series races, plus smaller enduro events, two XCM National Championships and countless weekend and weeklong riding holidays for mountain bikers – now there is a new stage race landing in the area.
What’s the area like?
The north-east of Tasmania is a mountain bike playground. With an ever expanding network of purpose-built singletrack, the whole region has become the focus for mountain biking in Australia (as well as drawing international accolades) over the past 4 years.
Some of the newest additions are the linking trails from Branxholm to Derby, and the completion of the trails from the Blue Tier down to St Helens – and of course the trails at the Bay of Fires. Mountain biking is breathing new life into some of the smaller towns in this region of Tasmania.
And while Derby is an old mining town that now finds itself as a town driven by mountain biking, down by the beach the east coast of Tasmania is well-known for stunning white sand beaches and crystal clear (if not a bit cold) water. The north-east of Tasmania is a destination known for great food and produce, expansive views and a rugged landscape. It’s just about the perfect place for a mountain bike race.
Tell me about the trails for the Dragon Trail
The trails that you’ll ride at the Dragon Trail event are probably the biggest drawcard for the first year event. The trail network at Blue Derby, atop the Blue Tier, at St Helens and the Bay of Fires have been at the centre of attention for the mountain bike world. And yes world, not just Australia. Tasmania has cemented its place on the global mountain bike map after the Enduro World Series in 2017, and only served to reinforce that when the race visited again in 2019.
But what does that mean for the Dragon Trail MTB stage race? The majority of the trails in the north-east are purpose built to an intermediate level of rider, or confident beginner. So that tends to make them ideal for endurance racing events. The singletrack gets pretty challenging when going fast, and a few more features become viable with greater skill and ability. But in general, just about everything is rideable with two wheels on the ground. So you get to ride through temperate rainforest and sub-alpine plateaus, and dry eucalyptus forest and through coastal bush… all on trails designed for mountain biking.
Take a look at the whole course overview.
What sort of services are available?
If you find getting all the pieces for a mountain bike stage race to fall into place is a bit hard – well you will like the service on offer from the race organisers. If you can make sure you arrive in Launceston, Tasmania with your bike and luggage, they can do the rest (as long as you book the right services). The airport transfer will be at set times for you, your bike box and luggage – and it costs just $66 each way. That’s a lot easier and cheaper than figuring out a hire car or two so you can have one at each end of the event with your mates.
But of course, if you have your own vehicle as you are staying on afterwards, or you’re from Tasmania – well the race organisers can transfer you back to the start from the finish as well.
An essential part of a stage race is keeping your bike together, and each stage should have mechanical service at two or maybe three locations. Plus bike washes in Camp 2 and Camp 3, plus a mechanic on hand. In Branxholm at Camp 1 you have a few bike shops – and the bike wash at the trail head.
I ride for food – what’s that like?
If you’re not eating, you’re not recovering. Smart nutrition is an important aspect of any bike race, and especially so for a mountain bike stage race. At the Dragon Trail you have a few options for food. Firstly, the organisers are making sure a number of food trucks will be in the camps, so you can just go and order what you want. There will also be a range of craft beers on offer, plus wines and local whiskey apparently.
If self-sufficiency is your preference, there will be hot water available for cooking up some polenta or cous cous or two minute noodles. And hey, you can always bring your own super light camping stove.
With the race staying in Branxholm, at the Weldborough Pub and at St Helens, you’re not out of touch from local options to eat – although we suspect the Weldborough Pub will be pretty popular on the second night!
For breakfast, you might opt to have a $15 breakfast box. You add these on to your entry. With local blueberries, sourdough bread, hard boiled eggs, cheese and yoghurt – it’s a good mix to fuel you for the day ahead. Oh and there will be a coffee van.
So, you might still have some questions on how it all works at a 3-day mountain bike race where you ride point to point. Basically, you ride from a camp to another, and leave it up to the organisers to take care of replicating the services you need each time. Perfect!
So how do I carry my gear?
Bring a big duffle bag to act as a race bag that all your things need to fit into. If you’re camping, that means your tent, sleeping bag and mat and pillow – plus all your bike stuff. It can get a bit squeezy, but if you plan ahead and think about what you need, it’s quite simple. The bag can’t be over 30kg. This will be transported for you each day.
You can also have a small day bag to leave at the start and have right at the finish line. This is perfect for a jacket, wallet and maybe some post-race nutrition.
Do I have to camp at the Dragon Trail?
No – although if it is setting up a tent that puts you off, you can choose a service to have a tent provided and put up for you. Otherwise, you can always look at booking accommodation in the surrounding areas. You might find this simpler with a support person who can transport you to and fro between the warmth of a real bed and the start line.
Check out the details on the event website.
So how you manage sleeping, eating, transport and more is up to you. You can camp and cook, or book some AirBNB accommodation and take a support crew – or somewhere inbetween with a deluxe camping option and provided food boxes. It’s your call – make it the mountain bike holiday you want it to be.
For all details head to the Dragon Trail website.