Winter Challenge… Summer Survival…..There’s something about the names of the events that are born from the Endorfun crew that ring true at some stage when you are in the race. I’m sure that those who competed would have come across some form of Challenge, whether it be navigating the paddocks on the 11km run or getting up the first hill climb on the mountain bike. This may have turned to Survival once you crashed into a blackberry bush, or pushed yourself to the limit on the paddle to get to the finish line.
It all started out as a foggy and overcast morning for around 440 competitors who were to find their way around an 11km cross country run, 18km mountain bike, 37km road cycle and 11km paddle either solo or as a team of two, three of four. Runners took off from the home transition zone on the banks of the Huon River heading west into the hills for a loop through paddocks and along dirt roads. Chris Sullivan showed his form by finding himself first back with a large gap to Blackaby Kayaks/Running Edge’s Michael Anderson (team of 4) and ‘I think I can’s’ Jono Hitchens’ (team of 2). Amazingly Sullivan had entered as a solo competitor and had been a late call up to a team who lost their runner at the last minute. A very handy pick up for the team in question! The first of the individual title hopefuls through the run was young Alex Hunt.
The second leg mountain bike offered a technical course suiting those who have spent plenty of time riding single track as there were plenty of opportunuties to come undone once you reach the pine plantation high point and take the breakneck fast tracks back to sea level. The Ben and Ranga team of two played to their strength with Launceston’s Ben Mather showing why he is winning national level events, taking a big lead into the second transition from HTC highroad junior team of four rider Stephen Matthews. Individual competitors Mark Padgett enjoyed this leg setting himself up for a potential win. ”The mountain bike is one of my favourite legs and the changes they have made have made it more of a mountain biker’s ride and a lot more technical,” he said to the Mercury newspaper ”This really suits me this course, it is really hilly and hard and I’m only a little guy.”
The clouds parted and the sun started to beat down during the 37km road cycle loop around Geeveston and return as what was a winters day soon started to resemble spring. The two climbs mid course put some sting into the legs of everyone. Mather was able to hold the line honours lead for his team from HTC highroads Adam Hudson into the final changeover into the 11km paddle around egg island, heading north towards Huonville and back.
With a strong paddle from Joel Bevilacqua HTC highroad were able to take the lead in the last kilometre and take the close overall victory by 24 seconds from Ben and Ranga finishing second overall and first team of two. Hobart’s Mark Hinder had been tracking Padgett all morning, and was unable to pull him back, taking second 2 1/2 minutes behind Padgett who took his first Winter Challenge individual title. Padgett has continued his solid form after putting in plenty of training for half ironman event in Hawaii a few months earlier. After two punctures on that day in Hawaii I am sure he finished a relieved man after putting together a trouble free race. Hobart’s Meghan Johnston and Toni Spinks were the only female individual competitors and had a great battle all morning with Johnston winning by just over one minute.
Whilst most could only dream to match the pace of the best at the pointy end of the race, the bulk of the competitors will have had a story to tell of their adventures on the day. There were plenty of crashes on the mountain bike with uninvited encounters blackberry bushes, posts and tree’s. The race organisers at endorfun must be commended for putting on a well organised day that I hope is here to stay on the Tasmanian endurance calender for a long time to come.
More images of the day can also be found at tas endurance facebook page