"Hey guys, are you here for the race?" The cashier welcomes us as we enter the supermarket. We’re not even in the 200-soul village of Derby, the venue of the second round of the Enduro World Series, but we are still about 1.5 hours drive away in a shop near the airport of Launceston! What a beautiful greeting to start the trip.
Tasmania is probably the most exotic location of the Enduro World Series and it has definitely been one of our highlights for the year already. We had a great time and took advantage of the two-week gap we had after the race in Rotorua. While most of the other enduroists stayed at the Crankworx in New Zealand, we immediately got onto the plane and rented a fun pick-up style campervan to explore the island. However, the 8-hour race in the rain of Rotorua was still deep in our bones. Ines, who raced with a mild food poisoning, felt particularly fragile so we refrained from any kind of training and announced a week of rest.
James drove the little rally car whilst Max and Ines piloted the camper. Despite the cab only having two seats there was thankfully enough space in the box to sleep all three of us. With knowledge of the various poisonous, deadly creatures crawling and slithering about none of us liked the idea of sleeping out in a tent very much!
Once we arrived, we headed straight to Derby where the local bike café let us deposit our bike boxes/bags and unnecessary luggage to free up some space in the camper. Although the race was still two weeks away, it was already busy with bikers both young and old. As we assemble our bikes, many people came by to get the chat about the previous race and the one which was just about to take place. The anticipation was in the air and a sense of excitement was already beginning to build. This sensation wasn’t only present at the epicentre but reverberations could be felt across the island with stories in the newspapers, on the national radio and talk of an epic open-air rock concert after party. So cool!
Back to the guide book. We headed east and reached the sea at the famous Bay of Fires by sunset.
There were white sand beaches as far as the eye could see. In between the coves, pelicans sat on the red lichen-covered lava rock formations. We cycled along the coastal road to Gardens Bay and were simply mesmerised by the areas natural beauty. By far and away the best bit was that we had the place almost entirely to ourselves.
Day two of our "Great Eastern Drive" took us to the Freycinet National Park - another must-do in our road trip guide. A short and worthwhile hike took us to a viewpoint that looks out across the magnificent Wineglass Bay. Ines and James were still on the hardcore recovery programme so they casually strolled back to do some light stretching and relax in the sun. Meanwhile Max couldn’t resist the temptation to run and scramble his way up the steep mountain for a complete view from the summit.
We then continued in the direction of Hobart. In the evening, we stopped at Seven Mile Beach - a 7mile sandy beach within sight of the city yet absolutely empty.
In the morning, we stopped by the local bike shop, Cyclingo, to enquire about the biking possibilities in the area to which we were kindly and extensively informed. As recommended, we parked beside the brewery at the foot of Mount Wellington which perches above the city with its 1200m high summit. There we were fortunate enough to be greeted by a friendly group of local shredders who promptly took us on a tour of their favorite trails and invited us round to stay. A true example of Tasmanian hospitality and a genuine testament to our sport. No matter what country or nationality, this common interest instantly forms a bond and unites people together. We spent two great days with these guys including a cosy evening in the pub before parting ways safe in the knowledge that we’d see each other again at the EWS in Derby just one week later.
Our small road trip was rounded off with a cultural tour through the Tasmanian Sate Capital. Hobart has a lot to offer: the food markets are exquisite and after reading one of her favourite books "635 Days in Ice" Ines was fascinated by the Mawson's Hut Replica Museum. It is an exact replica of the original cabin that was constructed in Antarctica, showcasing the history and achievements of the men of the 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition led by Douglas Mawson. No less fascinating was the "Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)". It’s an enormous, mostly underground building which was built by the eccentric Tasmanian millionaire, David Walsh to display his vast private collection of precious modern art. With over 1900 pieces and various other exhibitions, there is a lot to see and it’s completely free to Tasmanian locals which is a very humbling gesture.
After a week of touring it was time to get back to work. Next stop: Enduro World Series round 2. Back to Derby we went to begin our track walks. For two days we explored most of the seven stages by foot and couldn’t wait to experience the fantastic looking trails by bike. The trail network that has been created in the old quiet mining town of Derby is incredible. People from all over Australia travel to ride here and we could see why. We were lucky enough to have an early taste of the dirt under our tyres on Wednesday when local bike shop, Vertigo MTB, invited us to shuttle the Blue Tier Trail. It was 12 kilometers of pure rolling pleasure. The trail winds its way through a wonderful landscape with little gradient and a nice contrast of open terrain up top and dense jungle below. With some optional big jumps thrown in, it’s an enjoyable combination of all mountain trail bike flow and freeride sending.
By now, almost all of us and our surrounding colleagues were struck down to some extent or another by the cold that was still lingering and settling in from the race in New Zealand – despite our efforts to rest and recover. Thursday was a very quiet day as we tried to maximise the remaining recovery time we had left before the start of training.
Despite a sore throat, tickly cough and lack of sleep the training days were incredibly fun. The tracks were short and intense with gigantic rock slabs, big rock drops and never ending boulder gardens that would eat bikes for breakfast. In complete contrast to this, the stages also included some very well-built gap jumps, fast flowing berms and high-speed passages through trees and rocks for a lively variety.
Those who followed the race in Rotorua probably couldn’t believe the timing of the weather. Once again, just as the race began, the heavens opened. It rained and rained and rained. A few strikes of lightning and rolls of thunder added to the tension and anxiety. The previously dusty trenches slowly began to change. Since the sand was so deep, the soil was so gritty and the granite rocks were so abrasive the trails were much more manageable than what we encountered two weeks previously. The trails were not thick, wet and sloppy but nevertheless, they were still slippery, physical and exceptionally difficult to ride fast.
Ines battled her way through the day. Her stage results continually improved to yield yet another podium performance for which she should be very proud. A third place finish confirms her position as one of the top female riders in the scene. James showed a strong performance in the rain too with a 12th place stage finish and a final result of 35th in the overall standings. Max also did well to survive the brutal conditions and steered it home to a solid 68th place.
So what about the snakes? We certainly didn’t see any. The Tasmanians probably just make it up to help keep the island to themselves. Can’t really blame them
Images courtesy of Max Schumann and Sven Martin.