Defying some predictions of a return to Mt Joyce, or even going to Hiddenvale, Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA) has confirmed the Australian Cross Country Marathon Championships will be held in Townsville, Queensland for the next two years – right up north in some of the least populated area of the Australian East Coast.
MTBA Chief Executive Officer Shane Coppin was in Townsville for Friday’s announcement and revealed the marathon championships will be part of a “Mountain Bike Festival” to be held in the northern Queensland city in late April (updated 10th September 2016).
“This event is all about offering something for everyone,” Coppin said.
“As a destination, Townsville has an incredible amount to offer mountain bikers of all levels including sensational views, all within a beautiful tropical location.”
“The views you get riding along the cliff’s edge at Pallarenda overlooking Magnetic Island are fantastic and having Castle Hill right in the centre of the city provides an event opportunity that could be something very special and even iconic in the sport of mountain biking.”
“The event is not just about the racing, this festival is based around a destination and maximising the regions natural beauty and landscape to provide mountain bikers, their families and supporters with a unique experience and holiday.”
“MTBA are very appreciative of the support and investment from both Townsville Enterprise and Townsville City Council to make this opportunity a reality.”
“Townsville is also blessed with a very strong local mountain bike community led by the Townsville Rockwheelers.”
“We look forward to working closely with the club to ensure we deliver a top class event,” said Coppin.
The other 2017/18 events to coincide with the cross-country marathon championships will include:
- a downhill race at Townsville’s iconic Castle Hill,
- a four day stage race aimed at amateur and elite riders
President of MTBA Russell Baker also endorsed the centre as vibrant mountain bike region.
“The Rockwheelers have a great history of trail development, Government and Sponsor support, and high quality events in the Townsville area, with major mountain bike trails around Mount Stuart, the Ross Dam and Cape Pallarenda”
“I am sure that all the riders in the XCM Championships will be impressed with what the trails, the Club and Townsville have to offer.”
“I would also like to pay a special tribute to Haydn Tilley, a previous MTBA Volunteer of the Year, for his tireless work over many years in making Townsville such an attractive mountain biking destination.”
“I look forward to seeing lots of riders there, in a town where I grew up, taking part in a sport that did not even exist when I was at School in Townsville,” Baker said.
Townsville Enterprise Chair Kevin Gill said the event would attract over 300 competitors to the region and provide an opportunity for the city to be marketed across the country.
“This event offers the opportunity to be crowned the Australian Marathon National champion and will have mountain bike enthusiasts following the competition from the across the country,” he said.
Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said hosting the national event will help to cement Townsville’s reputation as the events capital of regional Australia.
“Townsville City Council has also committed $50k to support mountain bike track development in Townsville as part of this event initiative so this project is a win win situation for visitors and locals.”
“We look forward to working with the expertise in the Townsville Rockwheelers to ensure investment is made into the right tracks and areas.”
This is a fantastic boost for mountain bikers in far north Queensland, but it might hinger the growth of marathon racing at Championships level, with the event moving to another location a long distance away from the majority of elite racers in Australia. While this will be a favourable location for some, there’s a good chance the field won’t be as deep as it would in a location closer to Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, and we will see the field diminish in size for another year at an elite level.