Hellfire Cup: Teams Racing Done Right (race wrap)
The Hellfire Cup has been raced four times, and each time misfortune meant I couldn’t attend. The first year Elv was a tiny baby and Aiden and I planned to travel in a campervan, with my mum, to the race in Tassie. Alas, the race was ravaged by fires and was postponed. Fast forward and the next version of the race was decimated by floods. Time and finances got in the way year after year and we had missed out, until this year.
I was fortunate enough to get time off, an entry and a cool teammate in Briony Mattocks, and was finally ready to experience the exceptional single track and fast and hard racing that Tasmania had to offer. The planets had suddenly aligned!
With historically very strong elite fields, we would have our work cut out for us.
Arriving in Hobart, and travelling to Kellevie, we had a sleepless night pre-race due to Briony’s bike being forgotten by QANTAS and delivered at midnight. But come race day we were ready to race.
Day 1: Stage 1
Stage one was a 27km singletrack-fest. With a bit of precipitation, we started off strong but Bri needed a little more time for her exceptional marathon legs to find her groove. Thus we tapped through the trails, offering a myriad of rocks, roots, trees and amazing singletrack. With wetter conditions than usual we pottered through, coming in behind Holly Harris and Kathryn Mcinnerney who led the charge from the start; we had our work cut out!
Stage 2 was a fast a furious relay format, with each rider complete 2 laps of 6km. I headed off first and soon had to contend with three chain-offs, putting us well behind. Bri roder super strong, and my second lap was lightning quick but not enough as we ended up the bridesmaids once again.
Day 2: Stage 3
The queen stage. The great thing about Hellfire is that it has an awesome community feel and it’s a stage race you don’t have to commit weeks and weeks of 20hr weeks training in preparation for it. With the Queen stage being 50km, or a half-marathon length, the race is definitely achievable by anyone with a bike and a bit of grit. Once again we started off at an achievable pace, and tapped up the climbs. Bri wasn’t having the best day ever so we would just ride and regroup and ride. We definitely had a love hate relationship with the boggy, wet single track. I enjoyed the wild descents, but didn’t quite rate the greasy traverses and Bri was the opposite! In the end, we came back towards the village at 40km, and though we were expecting to be sent out for another 10km we were pleasantly surprised the race was cut short; our drivetrains thanked the organisers. Once again the bridesmaids, the cloudy weather finally cleared and we headed home for an evening of Stranger Things and plain noodles with butter because we had run out of food. Bike racing is glamorous like that.
Day 3: Stage 4
TTT. The TTT was an unusual addition to a singletrack-focussed the race on paper, but in reality it worked well. We cruised out the 9km to the race start as a huge group, sat and ate bananas before the race, then belted each other in a teams time trial on fireroad. The 15km loop was pretty brutal but we had a wicked time. In our pairing we worked really well as a team, as I paced up the climbs and Bri nearly annihilated me by driving it on the flat. We were passed by mixed pairs riders Brodie and Gary mid race, but caught back up to them after the descent which meant we had a very fast train back to the finish. 10/10 for quick but not quick enough, as the Torq girls got some more seconds on us (how fast were they going!?). We all cruised back the 14km to the race village where we collectively complained about being tired. Such is the nature of stage racing.
The groveller. Another pairs relay, this time a 9km lap each of singletrack around the race village. We swapped it up this time, and sent Bri off first. Kath was first for the Torq ladies. The pep talk for Bri before the start was ‘lets see how deep you can go Bri, lets blow you up like Hiroshima, when you think you can’t keep going, go harder’. Gee whiz it worked! She came through blisteringly fast, all I had to do was not fuck up!
Then I crashed trying to overtake someone because I am a klutz and the pressure was on! I could catch glimpses of Holly behind me through the trees; what was the gap, was she catching? I was in full grovel mode, frothing at the mouth, going so hard I couldn’t think about skills I would just point my bike where my reptilian brain thought it should go and hope for the best. In the end we maintained a lead, Holly managed 6sec on me; and that’s including my crash so I was pretty stoked with that; I have only been doing base miles but the brain remembers how to race somehow.
After this stage we were oh so tired…I recognised I was feeling a bit negative which meant I needed some rest…but no rest for the wicked because day 4 was just around the corner…
Day 4: Stage 6
The Groveller part 2. The Hill climb and descent was a tough stage, but I loved it. Set off in groups of 10 we hammered up an unforgiving climb of around 1.5km, followed by a 1km descent which was probably the best of the whole race. Loose chattery pseudo-berms, rocks and rock gardens had me grinning from ear to ear even though I was stuck behind some riders. Great stage but brutal!
The procession. The final stage of the race was advertised as a short criterium around the race village which I was all about. Heck yeah: criterium, that’s my thing yeah!? Unfortunately it ended up being another hill climb, and we took the approach of the tour riders on the Champs Elysse and drank booze while tapping up the climb. Just kidding about the booze, but we did take it pretty easy and have chats to people suffering along. Bri and I crossed the line and high fived, it had been a wild four days but we came through intact, with only minor crashes and mechanicals to whine about. In the end we were to be the Bridesmaids behind the super speedy TORQ team, but gee whiz we gave it a crack anyway, and felt like we rode super well!
So if you’re ever after an adventure in a beautiful part of the world, that features epic single track, hippy burgers and coffee and beer onsite, then look no further than the Hellfire Cup. The legs are still recovering but I am abuzz with awesome memories.
Spot prizes were on point: I even won a Henty backpack (and we all know how I feel about backpacks….)
Five out of five bovine-related alcoholic beverages.