The fourth edition of Mark Webber's Pure Tasmania Challenge kicks off today [Tuesday] with the Red Bull Racing driver leading 60+ competitors over a 280km course that will see them take on a mix of mountain biking, kayaking and running/trekking - and more.

In true adventure racing tradition, a number of mystery disciplines have also been included - in the past, these have included abseiling and white-water rafting - and Webber admits that he is excited to see how the event - which he claims is different to any other around the world -pans out.

"Competitors race in one of the most spectacular places in the world, enjoy first class food and hospitality, as well as building some great new friendships with some pretty amazing people," he said of the Challenge, which he has built into a major event with corporate backing from the Federal Group - via the Pure Tasmania brand - and Tourism Tasmania, via discoverTasmania', with another 20 leading Australian companies in support.

The 2008 course includes five stages covering the jagged contours and icy streams of Cradle Mountain, the river and lake network around Barrington, the amazing peaks of Mount Roland, the historic Port Arthur region and urban stages in Launceston and Hobart.

"I really enjoy seeing people from all different backgrounds using this event to challenge themselves, initially thinking they won't get through, but they always do," Webber continued, noting that each previous edition had seen a full complement complete the course, "To then see their reactions and sense of achievement when they get to the end is quite inspiring.

"I'm also really thrilled to see how the Challenge has grown over the years, both in terms of its global recognition as a premium adventure race and also a fundraiser for great Australian charities."

Not one to sit back and watch others put themselves through the rigours of competing, Webber will again front his own team, carrying the Pure Tasmania flag, and will be partnered, for three days of the five, by leading Australian actor Daniel MacPherson. The RBR team leader was also due to be joined by Australia's best female adventure racer, Christie Sym, for two days, but she was a late scratch due to injury, and will be replaced by Tasmanian triathlete and adventure racer Emma Weitnauer.

"I am very excited to be able to compete this year," MacPherson commented, "Having only just wrapped up series two of City Homicide, I've been trying to get super fit, super fast, so I don't let Mark down! I don't want him dragging my backside around the Tasmanian wilderness for three days!"

Webber flew into Tasmania last Friday and joined his rivals at 'base camp' at Barrington on the eve of the event, which will see competitors kayaking Dove Lake, trekking to the summit of the snow-capped Cradle Mountain before finishing at the international rowing course at Lake Barrington - all on day one. The event finishes in Hobart next Sunday.

"Two days ago, there was a small amount of snow cover on Cradle, but most of this will have melted by [the time] our competitors are heading up there," Challenge race director Tim Saul reported, "We take all precautions to ensure their safety but we aim to push the competitors to their limits on this first day of the competition. The event for many is about personal growth and learning about one's limits. It's important to strip them back and rebuild them over the coming four days."


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