Ten years on: Cyclist reflects on life after Gillett crash
More than 300 competitors have entered this year’s Freycinet Challenge multi-sport event, up from 250 in 2016.
The 16-year-old event is in new hands, with four local sporting stars taking the reigns from previous organiser Tim Saul — former national mountain bike champion Rowena Fry, Ben Mather and Mark and Louise Padgett.
The quartet are promising a refreshed and rejuvenated version of the two-day race in which competitors run, kayak, road bike and mountain bike over a gruelling 165.5 kilometre course.
“Having been competitors in recent years, we’ve all thought of things we’d like to see out on the course,” Mark Padgett said.
“We’ve got a fairly unique perspective on what we’d like the event to look like, and hopefully that means people enjoy the two days of racing.”
The organisers hoped subtle changes to the course, including a single-track mountain bike section and a change to the run leg on the second day, would breathe new life into the event, which begins on Saturday at 8:00am.
“I think people were looking for a bit of change in direction, and something to renew their interest,” he said.
Champion rower Nesbitt the women’s favourite
Twenty-three individuals and 81 teams will line up to take part and among them will be rising rowing superstar Georgia Nesbitt competing in her first Freycinet Challenge as an individual.
Nesbitt was a member of the Australian lightweight quad scull crew that won world championship silver last month and in July smashed a nine-year world cup record in Switzerland.
She admitted the event would see her step outside of her comfort zone.
“I did the run and road bike last year — that’s where I feel the most comfortable,” she said.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve had very much, if any, experience on the mountain bike, and paddling is a bit different to the rowing.”
Despite that, Nesbitt will be one of the race favourites.
She is expected to dominate the paddle stages but is likely to lose ground on the bike to six-time Australian mountain bike champion Jodie Willett.
Hunt looking for three-peat
In the men’s individual event, Nesbitt’s partner and reigning back-to-back Freycinet Challenge champ Alex Hunt is favourite.
Despite Nesbitt being based in Penrith, New South Wales, the pair inspire one another.
“She’s a pretty inspiring person to be around,” Hunt said.
“She trains harder than any other person I know, so it’s hard not to get pushed along by that.”
The 26-year-old Hobartian is thrilled the event that made him fall in love with multi-sport is getting a facelift.
“Stale was the best way to describe it,” he said.
“Last year was a bit sad to see the numbers down, and it felt like it was slowly dying.”
Hunt’s domination has organisers considering jetting in competition from interstate and overseas to challenge him in future years.
“Barring a mechanical [fault] on his bike, or some sort of incident, he’s the firm favourite,” Mark Padgett said.