Australian Mountain Bike - - Editorial -

In 2017, Aus­tralia will have six dif­fer­ent moun­tain bike na­tional ti­tles, held in five dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions. The Na­tional Cross-Coun­try and Ob­served Tri­als cham­pi­onships were held on the Gold Coast in March, and the Na­tional Down­hill cham­pi­onships took place at Mt Joyce just be­fore we printed this is­sue. With a 24-hour Solo cham­pi­onship to be held in the ACT and a Grav­ity En­duro cham­pi­onship event sched­uled for Ea­gle Farm, SA in Oc­to­ber, the next event be­fore win­ter was the Na­tional Cross­Coun­try Marathon (XCM) cham­pi­onship, which was held in Townsville at the end of April. As the open­ing week­end of the Townsville MTB Fes­ti­val, the XCM Cham­pi­onship was the draw card event for this year, with a fam­ily day and so­cial rides adding to the ex­cite­ment. Townsville and Moun­tain Bike Aus­tralia (MTBA) have a three­year plan for growth for the fes­ti­val, in­clud­ing the ad­di­tion of an in­vite-only down­hill on Cas­tle Hill to the wa­ter­front, and po­ten­tially a four-day moun­tain bike stage race.


For the marathon event, a course was de­vised us­ing the trails at Cape Pal­larenda. Pre­vi­ously a quar­an­tine sta­tion, the area has an airforce radar base, and se­cluded beaches pop­u­lar with nat­u­ral­ists. The trail net­work was a handy ad­di­tion for ease of ac­cess for the lat­ter group, but the trails are of­ten used by run­ners as well as moun­tain bik­ers – and some rock fish­er­man look­ing for faster ac­cess to their lo­cal spots. The rocky land­scape also played an im­por­tant role in World War 2, with a num­ber of con­crete pill boxes along the route, plus some more rudi­men­tary out­posts built from rock. Chances are many of the com­peti­tors saw lit­tle of those relics or views when they were rac­ing, as the con­tin­ual twists and turns and rocky na­ture of the sin­gle­track net­work re­quired in­tense fo­cus to ride quickly, ef­fi­ciently and safely. The course in Townsville was made up of two loops, us­ing the pop­u­lar Un­der the Radar loop, and the Smed­leys loop, both rid­den in an an­ti­clock­wise di­rec­tion. Dur­ing the days pre­ced­ing the race, as rid­ers went out to prac­tice, they were blown away with the views and how fun the trails were. And while a lap had less than 300m of climbing over about 25km, no one said they ex­pected an easy race. Townsville is in the Dry Trop­ics, but it does rain, and the whole cape is mostly rock with very lit­tle soil, and the trails have been shaped to drain well. Lots of ex­tra trail work had been done, with more dirt he­li­coptered in for the crews to prep the trails – and they were in fan­tas­tic con­di­tion. They were dry and fast, but if you weren’t com­fort­able with your wheels drift­ing on the ter­rain you wouldn’t be in for an easy day.


Satur­day saw all Mas­ters, Ex­pert, Open and Ju­nior cat­e­gories line up, for race dis­tances of be­tween 24km-72km, de­pend­ing on the cat­e­gory. With rid­ers all start­ing at Cape Pal­larenda Park, spec­ta­tors and sup­port­ers were kept en­ter­tained with mu­sic, great cof­fee, food trucks, up­dates from check points and views straight across the Coral Sea to Mag­netic Is­land. With so many cat­e­gories, and rid­ers rac­ing dif­fer­ent dis­tances, it seemed like there were con­stantly peo­ple com­ing through or fin­ish­ing their race – but the real dif­fer­ences were noted be­tween those who were rac­ing 48km (two laps) to those rac­ing 72km (three laps). The ex­tra ef­fort for that third lap re­ally showed as the heat of the day in­creased and the pre­vi­ous ef­fort caught up with rid­ers. As a re­sult, it was of­ten late in the race where even­tual win­ners took ad­van­tage of their ri­vals’ fa­tigue to snare a na­tional ti­tle.

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