In late 2019, Australian mountain bikers were delivered a treat; a 3-day mountain bike stage race on some of the best singletrack in Australia., and even the world. Geocentric Outdoors had launched a daring new event, racing point-to-point from Branxholm to St Helens in the north-east Of Tasmania, going through Derby and the Blue Tier on the way. This was an event to get excited about, as the Dragon Trail would take riders on a journey across the north-east of Tasmania, on world-class trails.
‘When we launched the event in 2019, our aim was to make it one of the best events in the world,’ Louise Foulkes from Geocentric Outdoors told me when I spoke to her about the upcoming 2023 event. ‘That’s still our intention, but it may take a little bit longer with Covid 19 impacts on travel.’
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The first Dragon Trail destined for late March in 2020 had to be postponed, and instead, riders visited the island state in 2021, with many riders travelling from the National Championships in Maydena the week before. The first-year event brought a great vibe, tight racing, and a big workload for the Geocentric Outdoors crew.
Louise Foulkes grew up in Tasmania, and forged a career running multi-day adventure races. So in a way, setting up a point to point race that needed a whole camp to pick up and move didn’t seem too daunting.
‘I like point to point races, and having a communal event village. It brings people together, with people getting the reward of achieving something. Having been in the adventure race scene for so long, we are less race focused, and more interested in the overall experience and journey.
After two highly successful years, it looks like Geocentric Outdoors have got it right with the Dragon Trail, but that’s not to say they’re resting on their laurels. If you toed the line in 2021, here are a few changes to the event. Some were put in place for 2022, and some are ready to rock for 2023.
More time in Derby
Who wouldn’t love that? When the race was originally being planned, some of the trails in Derby weren’t quite upto scratch for a stage race. The trails for the EWS were too hard, and the others lacked the maintenance. That has changed, and Stage 1 now starts and finishes in Derby after the Prologue from Branxholm.
This removes the climb up Frome Road to Weldborough, but does take out the fast and raw river trail as well. But, given we get to ride more trails at Derby… it’s an overall gain. The full course details are online.
Two Dragon Trail camps
This is a big one, for everyone involved. The romance of point to point stage races loses some shine when you’re stuffing 85L of your worldly belongings into a 75L duffel bag by head torch at 5:58am. Ok, starts at the Dragon Trail were never that early, but it’s still nice to not have to pack up every morning. For 2023, the Dragon Trail will use the camp at Branxholm before the event, and after stage 1 as well. You can either shuttle back – or ride! It’s a good 8km roll to warm down.
This also works for those how are choosing to stay in accommodation instead of camping, as you can setup in Derby or Branxholm, and then shift to St Helens. Stage 2 starts at Weldborough, with a shuttle to book to get there, or use your private transport. Get the low down on accommodation at the Dragon Trail website.
This already gets delivered on Stage 1, but also on Stage 2, racing from the Weldborough Pub up to the Blue Tier and down the Bay of Fires Trail. Thanks to the updates, this trail now has an extra 4.8km of singletrack. And yeah, the OG Blue Tier trail is still in there. It’s a technical challenge and something that is entirely unique – you could even say it’s a trail of history. This was the original way up the Blue Tier. So it’s a privilege to get to ride it, and it ranks up there with some other cool tails of history such as the Bump Track, Convict Trail, or the route of Salt and Wine through Val Mora and beyond.
Overall, this really adds to the variety of the Dragon Trail. You get to ride more purpose built singletrack than in most stage races in Australia, but you also get to ride some great raw trails as well. If you’re looking for bragging rights around the campfire, tune up your natural tech riding and take some scalps on the Blue Tier, then keep it wide open on the Bay of Fires Trail.
In 2021, the opening prologue set your start position, with the following stages using 10 second staggered starts. It sounded like a nightmare to organise but it worked really well. In 2022, the Dragon Trail used 5 second starts for Stage 1, and then wave starts for Stage 2 and 3. It was a popular change and one that will be used again in 2023.
This is a great combination, as it allows riders to avoid congestion on the singletrack heavy Stage 1, but also race bar-to-bar on the following stages, where the course profiles allow a little more room to spread out.
Want to fly to Hobart can take a shuttle? Sure thing. Want to stay in an AirBnB instead of camping? That’s easier now as well. Looking for a few more food options? With the two camps, you can eat in the camp, cook, or walk out to a pub or restaurant instead! Get details on transfers and food over at the Dragon Trail website.
Overall, the updates for the 2023 Dragon Trail make a lot of sense. They make it easier for racers, with more service options as well – plus more trails. What’s not to like?
I was really impressed by the Dragon Trail in 2021. There is a lot of hype around the trails at Derby, and they really are that good. While the destination has a global presence for the enduro riding, the fact is there are incredibly good cross-country trails as well. In fact, the Australian Marathon Championships were one of the first events held at Derby in 2015, and 2016. And in 2023 the Devil’s Cardigan will host the National Gravel Championship. So… endurance riding and racing is etched into the landscape in the north-east. And if you haven’t been, it’s time to see for yourself if it’s as good as everyone says.
Entries for the 2023 Dragon Trail MTB Stage Race, running from 16-18 March 2023, are open. See you there.