Teen rider's outstanding endurance race performance
A TWO-HOUR handicap could not slow down the only solo junior competitor in a six-hour endurance race.
Because of his age, 16-year-old Ethan Hellwege was limited to four hours of racing in the MAD Rush six-hour race at Rowallan Park.
While the senior contestants had the full six hours of riding to catch up, only one rider could surpass the teen's impressive 10 laps of the 5.5km Mackay course.
Hellwege went toe-to-toe with Mackay MTB president Peter Lister who is also an Australian medallist in the sport.
Covering more than 55km by the end of his shortened time allowance, Hellwege's bells when he lapped other competitors would have become a familiar sound.
The third placed rider completed 10 laps as well, but fell behind with a 37.29 minute lap average to Hellwege's 23.59.
On the four-hour mark Lister tapped on the brakes and sent Hellwege to a temporary lead before the teen had to exit the course.
"The last few hundred metres, being in front of Peter and in first felt amazing, I did not want to stop," Hellwege said.
"Through the whole race, being with him and some of the other faster riders in the MAD community pushed me to keep up."
A few months ago Hellwege tackled a three-hour endurance race with less success.
"I went into the three-hour race just focusing on surviving," he said.
With the assistance of Mackay triathlon coach Nikki Giles the rider learned some tips and tricks to keep him going.
Hellwege said his nutrition was what carried him over the weekend.
"We planned for the whole six hours, so when I finished I felt great," he said.
"On the three-hour I just focused on energy gels, but this time I used solid foods, bananas, lollies for some sugar hits."
The two events were different in nature, but Hellwege still surprised himself with the outcome.
"It was a lot less technical than the shorter races but it had the hills in there and some of the fast lines," he said.
"I definitely was not (expecting to come second). I was aiming for top ten to be honest.
"When I started the race I just got in front of as many people as I could and focus on maintaining a good pace to stay in front of them.
"But once I knew where I was in the race it just motivated be more to go faster."
It was through the Mercy College mountain bike club the Hellwege found the passion four years ago.
The now St Patrick's College student had a taste of national competition at the beginning of the month when he was selected into the 2019 Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA) Championships at the Gold Coast.
"A national event is totally different. . . was just aiming for top 20 there," he said.
That goal was fulfilled when he ranked 17th in a field of 40 of Australia's best riders.
With his final year of school next year, Hellwege said he had already planned a return to the MTBA to improve on his efforts.