Hellfire Cup Sprint Stage Race Wraps up in Tasmania

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The final two days of the Hellfire Cup have wrapped up on the stunning Tasman Peninsula outside Hobart, Tasmania. Friday evening brought with it a rather catastrophic forecast with sever weather warnings given to the race area of catastrophic winds of over 110km/h. Subsequently the race organisers ‘Storm Bay Productions’ headed by Tasmanian MTB personality Duncan Ghiblin had some difficult decision making ahead of them. This not been Storm Bay’s first situation in which such decisions have had to be made. The Hellfire Cup has been disrupted in the past by flood, fire and now wind, being a Tasmanian event organising company Storm Bay knew the right decision to be made when considering wild weather. The Saturday morning stage a 25km loop was cancelled with the afternoon stage lengthened as the weather had calmed. Always respect to race organisers whom have to make these tough decisions at the last minute, after months and sometimes years of preparation I can imagine it can be quite distressing to have to make last minute adaptations to race schedules, Storm Bay did this with a calm authority and was met with understanding from all competitors.

The trails of Kellevie, TAS after the inclement weather had passed.

Subsequently, racing was back on in stage 5 which was extended to a 4 lap relay rather than the originally planned 2 lap relay of a 9km loop of the well manicured singletrack in the Mtn Trails property including a brand new bermed descent including a wall ride enjoyed by the more speedy, adventurous racers. With a handy lead in overall GC it was the Nankervis brothers whom again took stage honours proving they are not just the strongest but also the most skilful pair in the race this year. The race was ON however in the minor placings with the Van Diemen cycling pairing of U23 XCO national champ Alex Lack and partner Tom Cheesman from Launceston showing that singletrack is their forte with a solid 2nd place putting 3.5 minutes into team C-Bear from Sydney whom were 2nd in Elite men GC. Phoenix Cycling from canberra also showed their strength + skill on the singletrack loop with 3rd place on the stage. Kyle Ward and Samara Sheppard continued their dominance in the mixed pairs category. Janine Konidaris and Gemma Gooley were the strongest of the female teams. Full results here. 

Alex Malone of C-Bear nails the wall ride.
Photo: Marcus Enno

The extended stage 5 proved to be a favourite for many riders.
Photo: Marcus Enno

Stage 6 was an optional stage, a 5km loop starting at 8.45pm meaning lights and night riding skills were essential. With no time contributing to GC it was a fun stage for many riders but for the elite field there was $500 on the line for the win so full gas racing was anticipated. With a clean sweep of stages so far and a 100% victory rate at his 3 previous attendances it was Tasman Nankervis whom was eyeing off another victory and some handy pocket money. However, the local Tassie young gun Alex Lack had different plans. Recently returning from the U23 World Championship in Switzerland Lack has a refined form and strength on the bike and is a star of the future, in a very close finish with only a few seconds separation Lack out gunned Nankervis to take the victory and upset the Nankervis stage clean sweep.

Victory for Alex Lack in the night time ‘special’ stage.
Photo: Marcus Enno

This left 1 final day of racing and with the Nankervis brothers just having to ride a steady rhythm avoiding any mishaps to maintain their overall victory the vicious racing was left among 5 teams whom were within striking distance of the minor placings on the podium. Team C-bear of Alex Malone and Anthony Shippard were eager to hold on to their 2nd place mens team but Phoenix cycling from Canberra, Bike RIDE from Hobart, Van Diemen Cycling from Launceston and team marathonMTB.com were all within 2 minutes of eachother. Stage 6 was a Team Time Trial with waves of similar ability riders heading  out on a 16km loop with 2 major climbs and 2 different but fun descents. The new ‘rooster’ descent recently completed was another highlight for many racers, then a more old school off camber descent to the finish line to reward those not as comfortable with berms. Again the Nankervis brothers proved the best on the day and it would be the Van Diemen cycling crew who would put some sewrious time into C-bear coming within seconds of nabbing the 2nd place overall. Alex Lack and Tom Cheesman were rewarded for their efforts with 2nd overall on the stage. Phoenix would fall just short coming in 4th after some stunning lap times the previous day. Kyle and Samara continued their dominance in the mixed pairs with their nearest rivals Dan Bonello and Brodie Chapman of ‘Rescue Project- Shimano’ never recovering from their mechanical issues on day 1.

Trail designer David Mason enjoys his creation on stage 6.
Photo: Marcus Enno

Smiles all round after another fun stage.
Photo: Marcus Enno

Just 3km remained for the final stage a technical dash around the Kellevie MTB park. With the most rocky, technical stage saved till last many riders were keen to have some fun and test their skills on the famed ‘rock shute’. A few crashes and mishaps but serious injury averted as the Nankervis brothers rode home to victory whilst Samnco of Kyle Ward and Samara Sheppard took overall 2nd and 1st mixed team. C-bear would just hold on to 3rd by just 30seconds to Phoenix Cycling. Team marathonMTB.com culminated with 7th place on the GC. Everyone left this race with smiles on their dials however with the biggest smiles reserved for the Nankervis brothers whom also took home the generous winners cheque. Full results here.

Some humpty dumpties on the final stage.
Photo: Marcus Enno

team marathonMTB.com rode to 7th overall.
Photo: Marcus Enno

The Hellfire Cup is a novel event with something for everyone. The highlight for most was the quality of the trails most of which rarely get ridden outside of this event. With changes to this event being planned for the future including a possible switch to 2 days rather than 4 with an even greater emphasis on singletrack fun it is definitely one worth checking out. Hats off to Storm bay productions for another successful Hellfire cup.

Tasman and Russell Nankervis take home the 2018 Hellfire Cup.

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