Congratulations and thank you to the 698 individuals and 64 teams who competed over the weekend! Special mention to those who performed well in the fourth leg at our after party at the Queensland Hotel Goondiwindi. While the temperatures were much more forgiving, the changed course definitely proved that HOTW is still Queensland’s toughest triathlon!
2022 Race Report - Tim Richards
You have to go back to the inaugural Hell of the West in 1989 to find a HOTW that wasn’t conducted in the heat of late January or early February. The April date made for a unique start to the event when competitors were met with mild to even cool conditions for the 31st edition of The Barambah Organic Hell of the West. However, by the end of the race you could tell these milder conditions didn’t make racing any easier; everyone just went harder and faster!
With Josh Amberger racing in the open mens, it was always going to be a catch-me-if-you-can type of race and as predicted, Josh led a classy group out of the 3 lap Botanic Garden lagoon swim in a lightning 24:15 mins. Hot on his heels was newcomer Kurt Fryer; 10 seconds back was one of the race favourites, Nicholas Free and former Ironman world champion, Pete Jacobs. Bringing up the chase group of opens was crowd favourite, Tim Reed, a mere 2 minutes back and uber-biker Jake Montgomery with over 3 minutes to make up on the 80-kilometre bike. But before battling it out on the bike, competitors had to smash out a first run leg of 3.2 kilometres to get to the town park transition area. Nic Free made the most of this short run and was first out of T1.
A slight wind and a few showers made for perfect conditions for a fast bike split, as Amberger revved it up and put some good distance on the field’s fastest runner, Nic Free, on his way to a course record of 1:49:05. This record didn’t last long as Jake melted the rough, flat country road on his way to an unbelievable 1:47:16.
On the run it soon became evident that it was going to be a two-horse race - with leader Amberger being the bunny for the greyhound, Nic Free. The gap was closing fast and with about 5 kilometres to go it was under 90 seconds. However, that was as close as it got for Free who paid the price of a rapid transition that included no socks (!!) and severe blisters slowed his chase over the closing kilometres.
Josh won the 2022 title in the fastest time ever seen (3:26:54), ahead of Nicholas Free at 3:29:25 and an impressive return to racing by Jake Montgomery in 3rd (3:31:47).
The women’s race on the other hand saw young gun Romy Wolstencroft lead out of the water with the chase pack including 6-time HOTW winner Sarah Crowley only 30 seconds behind. The more experienced Crowley was able to use her superior strength to push away from the competition on the unforgiving, flat and lonely Goodar Road in the bike leg, grinding away to an impressive bike split of 1:59:39, which was only bested by Chloe Hartnet by a few seconds but T2 was where her race finished.
Once on the run, the crowd was certain it was a formality that Crowley would take her 7th title, but an impressive all-round race and fastest run split by Courtney Gilfillan meant the title was never truly in the bag until the final kilometres. But yet again, Sarah crossed the line first and etched her name into the rusty HOTW Champions Board for an amazing seventh time. Gilfillan was only 45 seconds behind in 2nd place while a solid all-round swim-bike-run performance by Hills District athlete, Ellen Guinea earned her the third step on the podium.
In the age group competition, there was plenty of close racing as athletes battled for a HOTW title. With many notable performances across all age groups, fastest times went to previous HOTW overall champion, Rosie Mcgeoch, who absolutely smashed the course on her way to 4:07:12 and the perennial speedy age grouper champ, Sean Richardson, who won fastest male in 3:47.14.
The top two teams came in under four hours, with mixed team ‘Red Rom Dogs’ pushing ahead of all-male ‘TEAM DJoke’ by only 25 secs to secure the title. ‘The Red Rockets’ won the womens and ‘Team TSBE’ the Masters +40. A notable mention to local Year 12 student, Raylee Amos who had fast team swim!!!
While we love admiring the speed of the athletes at the front of the race, it’s often the many other stories of sacrifice, commitment and courage of the mid and back of the packers that make this event so special to our community. One of the great moments of this year’s event was celebrating the milestone of 30 consecutive finishes by HOTW Legend Gareth Buckley. It is an amazing feat to complete this race once and to do it 30 times in a row is unbelievable – he even won the 65-69 age group to boot! When speaking to Gareth about what keeps him coming back each year (all the way from Wollongong), Gareth commented: “Even though it has evolved to a more professional type of event, it still hasn't lost that community feeling".
The recovery tent catered for over 400 athletes as they refuelled and shared stories of the emotions they had just experienced in finishing what is known as Queensland’s toughest triathlon. As we say, ‘Only a HOTW competitor knows the feeling’.
One of the most prestigious HOTW awards is the Neil Pagey Award which goes to the Tri Club with the most HOTW competitors. As usual, it was hotly contested by two Brisbane powerhouses, Reddog and Tri-Nation, with Reddog narrowly winning by 3 competitors (30 to 27); Goondiwindi Triathlon Club came in 3rd (18) which is not bad considering most of the club had an orange HOTW Committee shirt on! HOTW would especially like to thank those clubs that came from afar, as we had clubs from Maitland in the south, to Cairns in north and everywhere in between. HOTW prides itself as a good value event for tri clubs to come out and enjoy racing and celebrating together, so please bring a few more club mates next year.
This year also saw 330 competitors enjoy the GTH+ Super Saturday events that included the Hell Kids Triathlon, Firestarter enticer Triathlon and Gundy Inferno 5k and 10k charity runs. This was again a huge success that was well supported by many local and visiting competitors tackling their first ever event or challenging themselves for a PB.
The HOTW Committee and the Goondiwindi Triathlon Club would like to thank all competitors for coming to race our much-loved event. The HOTW Committee is incredibly grateful to have the help of 300+ volunteers and many sponsors and event partners that make this event what it is – ‘The Friendliest but Toughest Triathlon around’.
Please take the time to complete the TEQ Survey that was emailed to competitors. Your responses determine the future funding and success of the event and only takes 2-3 minutes to complete. Don’t forget to add your details at the end of the survey to go in the draw to win a free entry to HOTW 2023 as well as a great Hell of the West merchandise pack!
We would also like to thank the vendors, both local and visiting, that make the Town Park Expo a great place for our competitors and supporters to hang out, connect and share experiences over a coffee, or a cool drink and something tasty to eat.
2022 HOTW will be remembered as a unique year including a postponement, course changes from flooding and many Covid related withdrawals, but again the Goondiwindi Triathlon Club has proven its members are a resilient and committed group that will always do whatever they can to run the best race possible for our competitors. THE SHOW MUST GO ON.
See you all next year and we will be back to you soon with the date for 2023!!!