The Team Iron House combination of Tasmanian Mark Padgett and Hobart-based Brit Mark Hinder have taken the 2011 Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge title after leading the adventure race for most of the five days of competition.
The local combination crossed the line at the Hobart Dock’s to finish 53 minutes ahead of Team Tasmania, which Mark Webber headed on the opening day before passing responsibility onto ironman great Guy Andrews and former triathlete Darren Clarke. Hobart firefighter Emma Weitnauer was the first female home and, along with her Pure Tasmania teammate, Jarad Kohlar, secured third place outright, one hour 24 minutes behind Team Iron House. The French-based Team Renault-Garmin of Sylvain Camus and Rene Rovera were the first of the internationals, finishing in fourth place a little over five minutes further back.
The Iron House team used their local knowledge to their advantage from the start, leading the field after the first day on the Freycinet Peninsula, where Padgett lives. While they forfeited the lead briefly on Friday after getting lost in the Bruny Island bush, they quickly regained it, and finished as strongly as they started.
Today’s course was revealed only 30 minutes before the starters sent the 30 teams on their way, requiring each to navigate their way to the top of the designated nine hills that overlook the Derwent River. Team Iron House were nervous going into the final day, knowing a single error could rob them of their hard earned victory, but they did it with relative ease, crossing the line looking remarkably fresh.
“Mentally more than physically it’s really tough,” Hinder said. “We’ve done 35 hours of racing and we’ve done it at race pace and navigating, so it’s pretty mentally demanding.
“Today was probably mentally the hardest day. Everyone was saying with local knowledge we’d walk it in, but up until half an hour before we still didn’t know where we were going and that was the real unknown about it.”
Padgett is known as the island state’s leading endurance athlete and winning on home soil was particularly sweet. “We’re pretty stoked,” he said. “We just didn’t want to throw it away on the last day. We made some big mistakes on day three and maybe that was a good thing, it made us a bit more focused on getting this right today.”
“This year, this is the hardest one I’ve ever done because at the front we have had to race hard for all five days. The optional checkpoints were not optional for us, if you wanted to win you had to do them.“
Webber and Andrews took Team Tasmania to third place on day one, and after slipping to fourth, were up to second with a day to go. “We’re pretty stoked with finishing second,” Andrews said. “We just didn’t want to throw it away today. We’ve done a lot of races and it’s one of the hardest but most spectacular courses I have done by far. “The pace has been quite fast this year, there’s some good international teams and the local guys are pretty fast, it’s the fastest race I’ve ever been in. “It just goes to show how well Mark (Webber) did on the first day to keep us in touch with those guys, so full credit to him for being able to set us up for the rest of the week.”
Event organizers, Octagon Australia, have revealed that the 2012 Swisse Mark Webber Challenge charity race will move to the north-east and central regions of the state, part of a three year plan with the Tasmanian Government to showcase all the island has to offer.
The provisional top six finishers are… 1. Iron House – 18h42m07s 2. Team Tasmania – 19h35m23s 3. Pure Tasmania – 20h06m17s 4. Renault-Garmin 2 – 20h11m39s 5. Rexona – 21h03m07s 6. Renault Garmin 1 – 21h23m12s