Just one year after the tremendous disappointment of cancelling the inaugural Dragon Trail MTB due to the Covid19 pandemic, 300+ eager riders lined up in just east of Derby, ready to take on three days of racing in Tasmania’s North East. The team’s determination at Geocentric Outdoors paid off, and the race got underway, in favourable conditions through wonderful terrain, on world-famous trails.
Flow Photographer Kristina was on the ground chasing the event.
What is the Dragon Trail? – The Dragon Trail is a three-day stage race through Tasmania’s North East covering Derby, the Bay of Fires and St. Helens. Run by the folks at Geocentric Outdoors, it loosely follows the Trail of the Tin Dragon, the route Chinese miners followed in the 1870s in search of tin.
How long is the Dragon Trail? -The race goes for three days, and the stages are 52km, 58km and 45km, respectively. The race leaders completed each stage between two and three hours, while the rear of the field was closer to eight hours.
Who can enter the Dragon Trail? -Almost anyone, most of the trails are fast and flowy, with the course designed to welcome riders of a wide range of ability.
What are the race categories? – Solo, male/female, age group, and single speed. Juniors are welcome to compete as well, but if you’re under 18, you’ll need your parent’s permission and a designated guardian who is riding with you.
What kind of bike do I need for the Dragon Trail? – Anything from an XC bike to an Enduro Rig will get through the Dragon trail, but a full-suspension XC race bike will probably be best suited to the course.
When is the Dragon Trail? – This year, the race ran from March 18-20. It’s coming back for 2021; however, Geocentric Outdoors is yet to announce the dates.
Where can I find more information? – Click here
Day 1 — Derby Flow, Australia’s most famous trails
Setting off from Branxholm, the race kicked off with a non-timed warmup up ascending the 9km Valley Ponds trail to the actual race start. Riders were then sent at ten-second intervals onto the 52km course, complete with 1590m of climbing. Interment showers throughout the day kept the infamous Derby dirt grippy and created prime conditions for racing.
From the gun, the climbing started with riders pedalling up Axelrod first, followed by Long Shadows and The Great Race. The first stage was largely smooth sailing until the riders hit the bottom of the aptly named Heart Break Hill, putting their fitness and preparation to the test. After a lap around Casaced Dam, it was back towards town to tackle Relics, the s-bends on Sawtooth and achieve Mach-5 through the Derby Tunnel.
After fueling up on a handful of gummy worms and a sugary drink at the first air station, riders pointed towards the Wotchaup Upta climb. From the top, there are fantastic views of the township below, but it’s here that riders leave the trail network for some good old fashioned bush bashing.
The event organizers negotiated access to take the race across private property for race day to marry up the route to the Ringaroooma trail, contouring along the river bank to the village of Moorina and the second aid station.
With 17km to go, the race organizers had one more test in-store, with a big reward at the end. The climb up Frome Road to the lake bearing the same name is a manageable gradient for about 12km and bought riders to the KOM/QOM of the day at 580m above sea level. This uphill slog’s reward was the fabled Big Chook descent, which guided riders down to the finish at the legendary Weldborough Hotel.
Here riders were greeted with their digs for the night, a bit of camping, cold beers and talks from local speakers.
After a day-long battle with Cam Ivory, it was Marathon MTB rider and Tassie local Sam Fox, who crossed the line first, fresh off his U23 National Championship win. Karen Hill, who was technically racing in the 30-39 age group, was the first across the women’s field.
Day 2 — Bay of Fires; it’s all about the descending.
Arguably the highlight of the three-day race came in the form of the 13km Bay of Fires descent. This fast flowy downhill starts at the tippy top of the Blue Tier and drops 400 vertical meters, descending through everything from sub-alpine myrtle forests to dank dense rain forests, and swings past huge tree ferns.
But the racers weren’t treated to a cruisy shuttle ride to get here; they had to work for it, climbing 17km from the Weldborough hotel, up Little Chook, Emu Flat Road and a hike a bike up 4×4 tracks to the summit and the first aid station.
Here, the cost of admissions was a scratch behind the ear of the chocolate labrador who served as the bouncer.
Heading off from the first aid station, the region’s diversity begins to reveal itself with sandy climbs, giant boulders fields, and spectacular coastal scenery before another final descent down to the orange lichen-covered rocks of Swimcart beach.
After 58km on the bike and 1380m of climbing, it was again Fox and Hill who were the first to hit the white sand beach, backing up their wins from the previous day.
Day 3 — St. Helens Dreaming, the finale on the newest trails in the region
The third and final day took riders to the Flagstaff trail network for another 45km on the bike, including the brand new 27km Dreaming Pools wilderness trail.
Starting with a non-timed 4km liaison up the Town Link Trail, riders set a course for Flagstaff hill, traversing across Rock Lobster, Wedged In and Garnup to the first aid station.
Then it was into the wilderness and past the Dreaming Pools, where the organisers tell us only two riders stopped for a dip.
Related: Must Ride | St Helens, Tasmania Pt.2 – Keep Riding, Swimming, and Eating.
After 45 km, for the third time, it was Fox and Hill crossed the line first, winning the overall race and a permanent spot on the Dragon Trail trophy.
Photos – Kristina Vackova @kiphotomedia
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