Smiles all around | The Quad Crown Series kicks off with The Wild Penguin

The Quad Crown finally received the kickoff it deserved, with riders from all over the country descending on Northern Tassie to take in the trails of Penguin and Wild Mersey.

“The decision to postpone the race was not an easy one, and we definitely had all those little voices in our head,” says Event Director Sally Hill. “Smiles were definitely the constant. It was everything that we wanted it to be, and the roll on to the Sunshine Coast is really positive.”

“We’re beside ourselves with the turnout, and the vibe, and the enjoyment level,” she says.

See what you missed at Quad Crown round one, The Wild Penguin

After having to postpone the series due to factors outside of anyone’s control, the Quad Crown is here!

Hitting trails that hadn’t previously been part of a big stage race, including the brand new Raptor Ridge, the Quaddy started with a bang.

It was good times all around, from the elite riders who tested one another across the weekend, we also saw the first test of the Quad Crown’s unique handicapping system to award the Warrior Crowns.

What is the Quad Crown?

Run by the same folks who originally brought us the Cape to Cape and Port to Port back in the late 2000s, the Quad Crown is new series of mini-stage races.

Taking folks to fresh destinations that they have never raced, and many never have ridden at all, each stop consists of a prelude and and two XCM stages. The Wild Penguin in Devonport is the first stop in the series, with Sunshine Coast, Eden and Omeo still on the agenda.

Given that it is a series, points are up for grabs at each event and there will be an overall winner, both in the overall standings and for the Warrior Crown at the end.

The Wild Penguin

Penguin Prelude

Friday afternoon kicked off with the Prelude, a 10km romp through the Penguin MTB park, using a loop known as the Full Monty, hitting the main loop of the trail network and the Montgomery Loop trail.

Today was key for both the elites and the punters, not only serving as seeding for the start waves but it also set the standard for the handicap used to determine the Warrior Crown standings.

For this, each rider’s average speed was calculated, and then they are ranked based on how they improve through each stage. The riders with the biggest improvement over the entire race are coronated King and Queen.

However for the Prelude itself, it was all about the being the fastest overall, and Jess Manchester and Sam Fox put down the quickest times on course.

To Northwest Tassie we go, where the Penguins ride mountain bikes, the trails are mint and the brewskis are plentiful.
Dramatic scenes from above the start/finish were a long time coming.
Dan McConnell in full competition mode chasing a good position on the start line.
Maya Martin sending it on one of Penguin MTB Park’s iconic wooden features.
Peta Mullens chasing that front row starting position.
Sally Hill and the Quad Crown team overcame hurdle after hurdle to make this series happen. And after giving 100m hurdles Olympic record holder Sally Pearson a run for her money, they’ve pulled it off.
XCO National Champ Izzy Flint traded her bike for a mic at the Quad Crown.
It wouldn’t be a stage race without a trip to the brewery, and the Quad Crown hosted its kickoff dinner at Penguin Brewing Co.
“Coming into that last rough section, I was like fwoahhh, and my bike was like skert, skert, schralp, kapang. But I rode out of it.”

Stage 1 | Wild Mersey

With the five starting waves set, the first stage of The Wild Penguin had a last-minute course reroute to include the brand-spankin’ new Raptor Ridge trail at Wild Mersey.

Now covering 59km, the course took in a quick loop on the Warrawee side of the river to hit the bermy goodness of High Voltage before making a beeline for Sheffield via the Railton Express — across the newly rebuilt suspension bridge — to hit the Raptor Ridge wilderness trail, before heading back.

The new stage featured over 1200m of climbing, making it a pretty darn big day on the bike.

For the elites, Peta Mullens was the fastest of the Women’s race, while Tassie local Sam Fox nosed ahead of the Men’s field.

The youngsters were out in force mixing it up with the main field.
The nervous energy was electric before the starting gun.
Smooooooke on the waaaaateeerrrr. The morning temps were a bit nippy to say the least.
The suspension bridge across the Mersey River, which connects Warrawee to Railton, washed away a few years ago. It was just re-opened in time for the race, and even the locals hadn’t had the chance to ride it yet. At 147m long it’s also the longest suspension bridge in the country.
It’s not too often a river crossing in a race leaves your feet dry. The course team from the Quad Crown came through big time.
How’s that for a view? While the elites were probably going too fast to enjoy it, Wild Mersey is turning it on for everyone else.
On the Railton and Sheffield side of the network, there are some pretty rough sections that would have required a fair bit of finesse on an XC bike.
Some were a bit more prepared than others for these rough and tumble descents. The e-Bikers were wide open on the downhills.
First stage complete, time for a brewery. We hear the Devonporter is a choice pick at Island State Brewing.

Stage 2 | Wild Mersey

The grand finale of The Wild Penguin jetted to the middle of the Wild Mersey network in Railton for the start.

The day kicked off with a neutral rollout on Crokers Street behind a bright red Tonka Truck before heading into the Sheffield side of the network.

“I don’t think Railton has seen that many people in one place before. Between the riders and the locals who came out, everyone was so stoked with it,” says Hill.

For today the field went for a clockwise loop of southern end of the network, taking in basically everything available without riding the same trail twice, including Ewoks, Gnarvana and Green Mile. Then it was a drag race back to the Seven Sheds brewery for the finish and celebratory beverages.

Again it was Peta Mullens and Sam Fox who crossed the line first today in the elite field.

There was some serious firepower on the front row of the elite wave. All smiles before the stage kicked off.
The local council pulled out all the stops to make sure the field made it to the trailhead in style.
And then it was straight into the ferns.
Is that Endor? Nope, just a bermy climb as riders work their way around the perimeter of the southern end of the Wild Mersey trail network.
Penguins, pink bolts and party shirts, hitting Mach ten because there is cold beer at the finish line.
More scenes from Endor…err…Wild Mersey. Talk about a cracking venue for a stage race.
Eyes on the prize, Imogen Smith was battling a chest cold through the race and just missed the podium on the day.
Smiles all around and big hugs for everyone, that’s what we love about stage racing.
And with the race done, it’s party time at Seven Sheds — conveniently located a few hundred metres from the trailhead.
Sunshine and brewskis not a bad way to wrap up a pretty epic weekend of riding.
Pinkey’s up dudes, that’s The Wild Penguin in the bag.

The first crowns awarded

The Wild Penguin is the first of four events on the Quad Crown calendar. While there are winners in each category on the day, there’s also the Warrior Crown centred around a riders improvement on their handicap. Points are also awarded towards the overall series win, which will be presented at The Big O, in Omeo later this year.

Peta Mullens and Sam Fox would hang on take out the Women’s and Men’s elite races, while Melissa Britt and Timothy Eagling were awarded the Warrior Crown for out-riding their handicap across the weekend.

Yes, they won actual crowns and currently sit atop the Quad Crown thrown, but each also received entries into the next three events to defend their post. As Hill explained to Flow, it’s now theirs to defend.

Next up is The Sunny 80 on the Sunshine Coast. Stay tuned for an event preview. For more on the Quad Crown series, click here.

For full results from the event or to register for the other stops head over to the Quad Crown website, and be sure to follow their Instagram and Facebook for the latest updates.

Melissa Britt is sporting some pretty flashy new headwear after The Wild Penguin.
Timothy Eagling wore his best shorts to the Warrior Crown coronation ceremony. Hill tells us he didn’t takes his crown off all day, and might even still be wearing it.
Congrats Quad Crown team! After setback after setback, the series is finally here, and we can’t way to see where it goes.

Photos – Grant Viney and Sam Newton / Magnier Media

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