Since 2015, the Australian National Cross-Country Marathon (XCM) Championships have been split across two days. This allows less traffic on the course as a short, lap-based event has been used to contest the titles since 2011, as opposed to a traditional point-to-point or big loop marathon. And the 2017 edition in Townsville, Queensland, is no different.
Day one in Townsville had all Masters age groups, Expert, and Junior races tackling the ~24km course in Townsville, for 1 or more laps depending on their category. With no more than about 15 in any category, grouped categories were let off in waves, into a short start loop around the back of the old quarantine station, before heading in to the Under the Radar trails.
Wave after wave left, and with such a long lap it made for some time to wait to see who would take the lead after the first lap. As Expert men were one of the first groups to go, with Masters 1, it was little surprise to see Ondrej Slezak and Michael Kafka come through, with Townsville local Daniel Rubach glued to their wheels. These three could easily line up in Elite men tomorrow – and a couple of them might.
In Masters 3, Darren Smith and Peter Lister were locked in a close battle, for much of the race. In the end it was Smith who crossed victorious, taking the first win for the Trek-Shimano team in Townsville.
Paul Morgan was a clear leader of Masters 6, coming through for his first lap in the lead – a position he didn’t relinquish for the entire race.
While it looked like Crocodile Trophy stalwart Brendan Skerke had a good start to the race, he only completed 2 of the 3 laps. We’re yet to hear what happened – but expect to see him firing at the Croc in September!
Results from Masters Women
The Masters women’s courses were raced over 2 laps, for 48km. The overall winner was Meaghan Stanton in Masters 3, who has now added an Australian National Marathon title to her Cross-Country title she won in March.
In Masters 2 Joanne Koy won, and in Masters 4 Nicole Frank was the sole competitor. In Masters 5, Jo Rowell was the champion and also the 3rd fastest woman on the day, behind Meaghan and 2nd placed Masters 3 racer Anita Narula.
The young kids in Townsville
A junior marathon seems like an odd concept, as really riders under 19 should probably be thinking about going as fast as possible for about an hour. But, the distance was 40km, making it longer than they would race in XCO but far from a 4 hour race for when they step into Under 23.
Luke Pankhurst was the fastest on the day, with Nathan Granata and Joshua Keir trailing. While this race had riders close together in the first few kilometres, it did break up as the course took its toll.
The full results for all races from Saturday can be found online.
Next stop: Elite
Next on the agenda? The elite fields, who kick off at 8:30am tomorrow morning. Who is your pick for the title? Will Brendan Johnston take his 3rd title? Will Dan McConnell take the XCM and XCO titles to Europe? Can Bec Henderson add to her XCO title before flying overseas, or will Holly Harris or Em Viotto make the leap to the top step of marathons? Can Briony Mattocks improve on her 3rd place in 2016, or can Jenny Blair add to her collection of national XCM titles? We’ll know by about lunchtime tomorrow.