Take a trip to Blue Derby, Tasmania to find out what happened when the world came to this tiny Aussie town!
The World comes to Derby
You often hear it said by riders who get to travel the world, or who have raced in Europe anyway: in Europe you ride hiking trials, in Australia you ride mountain bike trails. And Blue Derby is one of the best examples of that. Just about every metre of trail in Blue Derby has been built with mountain biking in mind. But that's not to say there was no mountain biking here before the trail teams got to work. Riding in the area started with some adventure rides up to the Blue Tier, and there was even an event here called The Blue Dragon, which Ben Mather ran. He and his wife Rowena Fry live in Launceston but have a close connection.
Ben is who took me here the first time in 2015, and standing with him in the event village of the Enduro World Series round almost exactly 4 years later is pretty amazing.
“I don't think anyone could stand back and say they expected it to be what it is now. I had always hoped it would be a place people would come to go mountain biking. I had imagined it might be more adventure riding, back at the start when I was looking at it. The scale that it is now, I can't expect anyone would have imagined it would be such a success – it has been way quicker than anyone might have anticipated.”
Moving around us we have the best gravity enduro riders in the world. People have travelled from around Australia to be here, and there's not a spare bed available in Derby or any of the towns nearby – and the campground is at capacity.
“It gives you tingles,” says Mather. “Tasmanians are pretty proud of their home state, but to see a World Enduro Series round come to Derby, you can't have even imagined that. It's amazing to see it happen and I don't think it will be the end. There's St Helens to come and Maydena is on the tip of people's tongues. And 4.5 million dollars was just announced for Georgetown for another 100km of trail. Then there is Wild Mersey, Pengiun and more. It's not just Derby, the whole state is developing into a mountain bike hub.
Find out how life changed for Derby after the EWS - Life in Derby After the EWS
Rider Feature: Tim Eaton
Tim Eaton put some fast times in on a few stages and was stoked with his ride once he finished, reflecting that visiting for the Shimano Enduro Series in November made a difference.
“I came here in November and it helped a bit. The tracks were a bit different then, nice and tacky. Now it's a bit dusty and blown out. But it's been fun. I'm loving it.” The trails here are one thing, but Eaton said it's just part of what makes Tassie so good right now, and the international riders were really into it.
“Derby and Tasmania have it all going on at the moment. They all come over and are loving it, I'm loving it, I just can't wait to get back to Tassie every time to ride my bike. It's just getting better and better.” And of the racing in the EWS itself Eaton was clear, “Every one needs to get out and do one of these things, it's one of the best races you can do.”
Shimano partner with Blue Derby
Shimano announced a 3- year partnership with Blue Derby while the EWS was taking place.
“We're coming onboard as a platinum partner with Blue Derby, and the goal with that is to continue some of the work we have already done to grow mountain biking,” said Shimano Australia Brand Manager Toby Shingleton. “Derby has a global profile now with the events we have had over the two EWS rounds and the Continental events. We see this as part of a legacy for Shimano, an ongoing representation in the region.”
There is a shift for brands to sponsor places and not just events, and Shingleton said it's about seeing a great connection with their core values and having something for every mountain biker.
“We really see Derby as a good representation on what the Shimano brand is about. It's the premium mountain bike destination and it has a reputation globally as a place to come, for all kinds of riders. It's not just guys riding at the top level. Here you have awesome blue trails, awesome green trails, and you have kids riding. We are about getting people on bikes and we want to see more people riding. It's really close to the core values of our organisation to get people closer to nature.”
At the same time, Shimano aren't opting to back a riding destination instead of backing events or athletes, as Shingleton points out.
“We still want to be involved with events. Competition and racing is really important for us. Part of this agreement is that there will be events here. We have agreed that there will be two mountain bike events here each year, they'll fall under the Shimano umbrella. One will be a festival style event with food and win. And hopefully we will announce the other event next year.”
Six stages of mountain bike master classes
The EWS round in Derby covered six stages, with the longest stage on Saturday afternoon. With riders doing practice in the morning and the EWS 80 taking place, the trails were a hive of activity all day. But after lunch, there was a steady stream of people heading up the hill, finding a place in the forest, and getting set to get their heckle on.
The stage down Kumma Gutza ended up like a downhill race. Sure, there was pedalling, but it was all in for the one stage that afternoon, and the crowds were epic. With a little bit of rain thrown in for some greasy action it meant the racers were on edge. The noise in the Vertigo Heckle zones was unbelievable. We don't always get a big crowd to bike races in Australia – but the crowds in Derby really set a new benchmark. There were superheroes and villains, suits and ties, sumo suits, chainsaws and just about any variety of bike parts being bashed together to make noise. If you wanted to take the temperature on how well the EWS was being received – you just had to be track side.
“That was pretty hectic, a bit spicier than I anticipated,” said Josh Carlson after his run. “Some of those bits in the middle you were just on the edge, just hoping it would work out.” Some racers had slippery runs, others had hero dirt. It's the luck of the draw with racing. Martin Maes impressed everyone with his supremecey. Isabeau Courdurier was the fastest woman down – and like Maes it was no huge surprise. Both riders are on another level. But local Row Fry was in 3rdand Connor Fearon was in 2ndbehind Maes. There was a lot for us all to be excited about and it was a sign of things to come.