TOWNSVILLE SHINES ON HENDERSON AND JOHNSTON
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.
A MARATHON FOCUS
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.
MASTERS CHAMPIONS CROWNED
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.