It’s been an epic race across, around and under some of the most incredible natural features that Tasmania has to offer. Now, Team Red Bull- V8 Supercar driver Rick Kelly and ultra marathon runner Ryan Sandes, arrive in to Hobart for the final day of the Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge, one of Australia’s toughest events.
Half an hour before the day starts, teams are told what the day will entail; it’s a race around Hobart that will see the teams hitting nine check points, each found on the top of nine peaks surrounding the Tasmanian capital.
Teams have access to their bikes, kayaks and running gear and can get to the peaks how they choose, but there is a proviso that at least one peak must be reached by way of each discipline. “How can you reach the top of a hill with a kayak?” you ask. “Teams must paddle to one of the landing points near the peaks and carry their paddles to the top,” say I.
Each peak has a time penalty attached for any teams failing to make it to the top. Also, for every minute teams come in to the finish line after three o'clock in the afternoon, they have a quarter of an hour added to their time.
As a team that struggles on the paddle legs of the race, Rick and Ryan have decided to get the kayak stage over and done with. When the gun fires, Team Red Bull, along with the bulk of the rest of the top teams, charge down to the dock to the boats. Jostling becomes shoving, which suits ultra-competitive Rick. All good natured. Sort of.
The teams joining the Red Bull guys across the Hobart River includes the two French teams and the team of Guy Andrews and Darren Clarke. The first peak Rick and Ryan scale is Rosny Hill and then they decide to make the short scramble to Gordon’s Hill. Now Rick and Ryan decide to traverse over to the final peak on the east side of the river, Natone Hill.
In between peaks Ryan steps off a path to relieve himself, but not only does he leave a warm puddle by the side of a path, he leaves the cards that acknowledge that the teams have reached the peaks. After realising what has happened the boys backtrack and Ryan is relieved once again, with the cards still where they were left.
As a requirement of the day, teams must leave their kayaks and mountain bikes where they picked them up, so Rick and Ryan paddle back across the river and start off on their mountain bikes. Now the real work starts, with the guys having to ride their mountain bikes up five peaks that ring the west of Hobart, some steep and relatively hidden.
THE UPHILL AND THE DOWNHILL
The four days of effort seem to be wearing Rick’s legs but Ryan is riding just as quickly as he was when we first got on the bike on day one. Unlike a few of the other interstate teams, Rick and Ryan complete the rest of the day without any navigational issues and just five hours from the guy they come back into Sullivan’s Cove, through the start /finish line.
After five days, four near drownings, three deviations from the map, two snake sightings and one lost paddle Team Red Bull rolls over the finish line.
“The chicken sticks are doing it tough, but I feel great. So glad we get it all done,” says Rick. “We got all the nav (navigation) right tody and we went hard. We finally got it all together on the last day. It should have been a ten day race,” Rick laughs.
“I’m actually really chuffed with how it all went. A little stuff up when I dropped the cards, but it was a really fun day,” says Ryan. "It’s been such a great experience, but I am looking forward to a day where I don’t have get on the bike or jump in a kayak.”
“I think we’ve definitely raised some eyebrows with how it’s all gone,” says Rick. “Given that neither of us have done anything like this before, I couldn’t be much happier about how we went.”
Moments after coming off the bike, the lads are straight into a couple of large boxes of fried chicken, slightly delirious with fatigue and happiness. I know you shouldn’t start talking to an adventure racer about next year’s race until this year’s chafing has gone, but will Rick and Ryan come back and try to improve on their seventh place finish.
“We’re a bit delirious right now and can’t think about much more than having some food now, but I’d love to do it again,” says Rick. “I doubt mine and Ryan’s calendars will allow it, but I’d love to train up and do it again. I reckon with a little training on the things we didn’t do that well, like the navigation, I reckon we’d be able to give some of the top guys a nudge,” says Rick.
So what were the highs and lows of the last five days?
“It’s strange saying it was a high, but looking back at the kayak on day four (where the boys ended up in the river after some violent white water and lost one of their paddles) is something that I’ll definitely always remember. At the time it wasn’t that funny, but even now I’m starting to appreciate it,” says Ryan.
“There weren’t any real low points, but the 12 km straight line kayak on day three was painful,” says Rick. “I think the hardest thing about the race is that you have to work so hard with only a few hours sleep a night. As soon as you finish racing, it’s time to start prepping for tomorrow and when you finish that you only end up getting five or so hours sleep.
"This is definitely something I’ll never forget. It tests your character as much as your fitness and lets you check out some of the most amazing scenery. I’d love to come back and walk up those peaks rather than have to charge up it and get my card punched at a check point.”
For a full list of results, check out the official website HERE