Words: Dave Ludenia
Photos: Marcus Enno
After a few postponements, The Trans Tasmania finally got underway in Januray 2022, beneath clear skies and warm sunshine in Maydena. This in itself is a novel concept for most who have visited this lush bike park playground in typical Tassie moisture. Travelling down from the mainland east coast and in a second successive La Nina (wet) summer, this was a warm welcome. Personally, after minimal time on the bike lately, I felt well underdone for what was to come but overwhelmingly pumped for my first gravity stage race. And boy did it deliver!
Tell me about the Trans series
For those unfamiliar with the format, the Trans events cover multi day, multi stage gravity enduro style in a suitably ‘blind racing’ format, meaning basically no practice! Intimidating for some, though the stages are selectively chosen to facilitate and challenge a wide range of intermediate through to pro abilities. Days are in the order of around 1000vm of climbing and normally wrapped up by early afternoon to allow plenty of banter, exploring or bike tuning to fill out the day.
Just shy of 100 riders took to the inaugural event on the little island, making for a manageable logistical exercise and friendly crowds to mingle amongst. For the seasoned racers, this was a very chilled atmosphere; riders were trickling in over the Sunday afternoon before the event, with keen racers out cutting a few laps and undertaking final bike prep.
For those new to the scene, Maydena presented a welcome and exciting base to be kicking off an adrenalin fueled week. The next day’s maps were on show to wide eyed riders and a relaxed briefing took place over a few beers. The race director Megan layed out the format and expectations clearly, introduced the medical team that no one wanted to get to know and was equally excited to showcase this event format around Tassie’s fine terrain.
Maydena Day 1 and 2 – In the deep end with thrill seeking sends!
Offering some of the best gravity trails in the country, Maydena Bike Park hosted the first 2 days of racing across the myriad of trails. This network gave plenty of variety to incorporate some of the renowned double black testing tracks as well multiple trail link ups for physical and punchy challenges. 5 stages covered the first day with another 4 to follow the next. A shuttle up to the summit to begin each day ensured maximum descending bang for your buck!
Tassie’s unseasonably dry summer, for the most part, left dusty terrain over the Maydena stages. This was a welcome relief to some riders as stage 2 sent us straight down ‘Nature’s Nectar’, a juicy double black chute that tests braking and line vision for all. These trails are pretty wild for the gravity beginners in the wet but a perfect fit for Trans event style; challenge and thrill. This was backed up with variants of the intimidating but iconic ‘Zen Garden’ and a flying, fun finish down ‘Thrash Horse’.
After a few setbacks of my own on the day, I wrapped up surprisingly inside the top 10 with a motivating stage win to tickle the competitive edge, which has been lying dormant for a while now. It would’ve been rude not to capitalise on the event masseuse and get the body in order so I snuck in with the lucky few who had booked it up. What a treat!
The beer garden grew as riders finished up after lunch and the stories flowed as fast as the beers. Mechanicals and off-track adventures, unplanned airtime and tree scrubbing lines, the scene was set and the hype grew for what was to keep on coming in the days ahead.
Day two kicked off with another shuttle to the top and straight into some black diamond goodness, winding down the steeps of ‘King Brown’ and ‘Billy Bob’. A harsh wake up for the sleepy arms but a superb rollercoaster trail that snakes down the vert berms and straight-line chutes. A couple of pedally stages followed to catch the legs up and bring some sweet flow to the riders before closing out down ‘Pamela’ and ‘Mos Def’ for some bike park sendy staples. All in all, a well-rounded way to see out the Maydena days, the spectrum of riders sharing the same dust caked, beaming smiles and finding their groove for plenty more ahead.
It was a quick bike clean up and on the road for an evening transfer in the bus from the eastern heat to some contrasting terrain over in the wild west.
Queentown – A raw and ravaged beauty
The cool cloud descended as we rolled into Queenstown for the evening, catching glimpses of the towering mountains surrounding town. A hearty feed and social drinks at the cosy Paragon Theatre was the comfort required before an epic on the cards tomorrow.
Waking up to raw, rocky and scenic Queenstown is certainly a sight to behold, cut into the lush forests of southern Tasmania. Mine ravaged rock ridges point in all directions with lake and even ocean views between the misty, rolling cloud. These barren landscapes are now creatively embossed with snaking lines of gravity fueled trail bliss, thanks to a progressive community and ambitious Dirt Art trail craft. This was the big adventure day of the event!
A quick shuttle up the road and it was onto a monster climb along the jagged ridge lines to a spectacular stage 1 vantage point. 360 degree views made you feel small yet amped for the open exposure of the trail below. As riders self-seeded and took off, it was immediately apparent the jank was to be respected, with more than a handful of flat tyres and rim smacking rocks to break your attention away from the epic escarpments all around.
A lumpy stage two tested the body with undulating rocky creek crossings and techy pinches. Those with a light style and tactful momentum could make some time up here before the aptly named Queen stage; ‘Natural Selection’. A solid climb was to be conquered before this though with unrelenting fire road grades, well up into the cloud and high above the townships below.
Stage 3 saw the barely run-in track shoot straight down the escarpment shale, with steep drops and committing chute lines sneaking up on every bend. There was no room for error here and I was amongst many on some off-track adventures, somehow managing to avert hitting the deck, though ending up well down the wrong side of the ridge for a scramble back up and on track. A particularly pesky rock even made light work of misplaced pedals and cranks, snapping a few clean off and forcing some very creative temporary repairs.
A truly testing trail, ‘Natural Selection’ was a crowd favourite and I’m not sure any other setting could define a raw enduro stage better. Cheers and applause greeted riders over the line with no liaison to stage 4 meaning adrenalin could carry uninterrupted. A final pedal and a welcome flow trail brought riders back to base after an epic and memorable day. The beers were generously put on by the event crew followed by a race photo slide show in the theatre and stories of the day lasting late into the evening hours.
Day 4 and 5 - Derby delights
For a relatively small island, it’s quite a journey from Queenstown around to the forests in the north east. Thankfully cruising along in the bus, hugging some stunning coast and weaving through mini mountain passes was easy on the eyes and a welcome rest for the body before a big afternoon of racing ahead.
As a well-established national and international destination, Derby doesn’t need too much of an introduction. Big stoke trails are matched with a hearty and well-equipped township. In Derby riders would see out the last days of their mountain bike wonder journey in style. A solid afternoon was to be tackled though, covering some EWS race classics, with namesake intimidation such as ‘Shearpin’, ‘Detonate’ and ‘Kumma-Gutza’. The post stage trail tales revealed an equally manageable challenge for the masses as it did to push the limits of the top end riders.
The final day of racing took riders out to the lesser raced but more adventurous extents of the Weldborough area. Vertigo provided a shuttle out and up to ‘Big Chook’ for stage 1 and then riders traversed through Weldy ‘town’ (reallyit's just a pub) and onto a steady climb up to ‘Atlas’. These trails are normally reserved for tourist mountain bike riders but once on the clock, they proved to be quite a workout, with some classic Derby flow interlinked with punchy pedals and traverses. The ‘Dam Busters’ rollercoaster closed out the 3rd stage down to the river granite slab for a feed before the meandering and lush climb up through Krushka’s native forest and towards the final stage of the day.
Sadly, areas within Krushka’s forest have been logged not long after this event under the guise of an outdated and ill-fated forestry quota agreement. This area has relied on forestry cooperation to develop as the mountain bike destination it has become but the reality of the current logging practices in this part of Tasmania remain controversial and out of line with the sustainable and nature based tourism that the state is renowned for.
But alas, we were about to embark on the Final day finale; ‘Trouty’, an EWS trail treat. This natural ridge line swiftly sends riders over slabs and rock boulders, right down to the town river to see out a huge week. A fitting finish for a full gas, five days of fiery fun!
After at least 2 hours of cumulative race time the laughs, tales and more than a few ales were shared at the Dorset hotel for the evening wrap up, with podiums and a few inevitable shoeys going down. From start to finish the atmosphere of this event delivered a friendly, race-oriented tour with relaxed style and adventure. Kudos to all involved and especially the volunteers, who are first on course and last down each day, ensuring this travelling fun fest came together smoothly; personality and professionalism all round.
Personally, I clawed back time as the week went on and managed to wind up 2nd overall sandwiched between 2 pinned locals and surrounded by old and new mates alike. It’s equally surprising as it is humbling how easy it is to get along with complete strangers; initially only sharing a two wheeled interest but catalysed by an atmosphere and context that can forge solid friendships in only 5 days. This is a testament to not only the format and adventure of an event of this nature, but also a general reflection on the sport-lifestyle we gracefully call mountain biking. I’m content here.
Read why you should Join the Party at Trans Tasmaniaat next year!
What gear do you need for a Trans event?
A dual suspnesion bike in the realm of 140-160mm of travel will give you enough burly ability without holding you up on the climbs. Durable wheels and tyres are a worthy investment to avoid frustrating trail side dramas and a compact but versatile toolset, tube and mini spares to keep you moving. A good chamois for rear end comfort and cable ties always prove to be handy... these held a snapped frame together for a few days out there!
I was on my new S-Works Stumpjumper Evo. This was barely a few rides old so not enough time to completely tune in but turned out to be a perfect 160/150mm F/R balance for the terrain. In certain sections of the race a mega-enduro bike would have been welcome but over frequent, sometimes long transitions and pedally stages, the efficiency of a mid-travel trail bike is the choice fit.
My Shimano XTR M9100 drivetrain and M9120 brakes handled the go and stop on my rig, as the top end should; outstanding. Specialized tyres wrapped the DT Swiss/Shimano hoops where I opted for the mid heavy casing Grid Trail Butcher/Eliminator 2.3” combo.