Rise in Freycinet entries gives reigning champion a challenge

CHALLENGE: Perennial competitor Alex Hunt is familiar with the surrounding Freycinet Challenge scenery, but will track a different course for this year's race at the weekend.
CHALLENGE: Perennial competitor Alex Hunt is familiar with the surrounding Freycinet Challenge scenery, but will track a different course for this year's race at the weekend.

Back-to-back Freycinet Challenge winner Alex Hunt admits a change of course at the state’s premier multisport event has freshened up the pre-race favourite’s outlook.

Seven of eight stages over the race’s two days have now changed since last year.

New organisers have responded to survey feedback from 180 race competitors to rejuvenate a tired format.

The mountain bike legs are longer, the road ride turns into a 40km time trial and a 9.5km out-and-back Sunday run heads down Muirs Beach foreshore onto Swanwick.

“I am certainly excited about the changes to the course – it now breathes new life into the race,” Hunt said.

“I think we’re in for more interesting racing, for sure.”

The 26-year-old feels the new-look race lifts pressure off his shoulders to now win a third consecutive title.

“My perspective has really changed over the past few years,” Hunt said.

“For so long I wanted to win and it felt like it was never going to happen. The year that I did win, I put a lot of pressure on myself with a lot of expectation to win.

“I have now certainly approached the race in a much more relaxed frame of mind.

“Obviously, I still want to win, but the biggest thing since winning the race the couple of times is to enjoy racing a lot more.”

Hunt is coming off a number of multisport events last month in China, including a 16-hour endurance race.

The Hobart-based entrant is targeting the Xterra World Championship at end of October, the Hawaii race named the premier off-road triathlon of its kind anywhere. 

“I’ve had a consistent lead-up of four months,” he said.

Freycinet Challenge 2017 co-organiser Louise Padgett said the iconic race is nearly 30 per cent up on the all-time low of 180 entrants last year.

Numbers rose from eight to 23 individual competitors to take on all of the 165kms of kayaking, mountain biking road cycling and trail runs over Saturday and Sunday.

“We think that has to do with a change of course that inspired more people to have a go, individually,” she said.

“It’s a positive turnaround and obviously we just want to continue to grow the event back to its heyday.”