Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA) have just confirmed the dates and venues for the 2018 National XCM Series. Next year the series is trimmed down to five events, including the National Championship, in a bid to have more riders attend more of the series, according to MTBA CEO Shane Coppin.
“We really hope this condensed series and particular races attracts not just our elite level riders, but also those who may be competing in this format for the first time. Next year’s series will have categories, offering increased opportunities for riders of all levels to participate,” Coppin remarked.
Round One: Easter in the Alice
The first stage of the 3-day Easter in the Alice stage race will kick off proceedings on 31st March.
“With over 200km of tracks around Alice Springs you’re never more than a few minutes from the best tracks in the country” CARR-Alice Springs Mountain Bike club President Paul Darvodelsky said.
This course has some of the best natural singletrack in Australia, trails that haven’t been touched with a wide digger, but instead shaped by wildlife and evolved by local riders and trail builders.
Round Two: Golden Triangle Epic
Round Two takes riders to Bendigo, Victoria for the “Golden Triangle Epic” on the 22nd of April. This is a popular club-run event with great support from the local community. And Bendigo isn’t short of some quick riders either.
“The new condensed series is shaping up to be a ripper with all events providing very different riding conditions and gruelling in their own way whilst providing iconic racing experiences. We’re glad to be part of the Marathon Series for 2018,” said Bendigo MTB president Rimmon Martin.
Round Three: Australian XCM Championships
As a change, the XCM Championships will count as a round of the series again – on even points too unless that changes in the future. The flat course in Townsville is jam-packed with singletrack in the first half. It rewards a good start but the course punishes those who don’t pace themselves. The race will be held on 29th April.
The field was very small in 2017, where Brendan Johnston and Bec Henderson won the titles. Will you change that in 2018, and come race beside the ocean on purpose made trails?
We expect more details for the National Championships will be online soon – but you can see our course guide from 2017 for insights.
Round Four: Bayview Blast
Shifting a little later into the year to stay clear of the East Coast’s major stage race – Port to Port, the Bayview Blast now falls on 10th June. The course is also having a bit of a rejig.
“After a few successful years running a four lap event the Blast will be reduced to two laps but will still cover over 90kms with the addition of 20km of trails not used for previous editions. Timing of the 2018 round was planned to coincide with NSW/VIC long weekend to help ease the race/work balance for our southern competitors,” said race director Lonnie Toia.
The move to two laps is to be applauded. At MarathonMTB.com we feel a true marathon is never lap-based but the reality is that’s not possible at all venues, especially those so close to a state capital.
Keep an eye on the event website for updates.
Round Five: Dwellingup 100
Rounding out the series will be the iconic Dwellingup 100 two months later on 18th August. It’s a big hike if you’re on the east coast, but anyone who has been says the trip is totally worth it.
“For 2018 the southern loop won’t be quite the same as the original but will take in classic trails like “Big Bertha” and “Kenny’s Killer”. There will be more elevation, more spectator interaction, more fun, more view and maybe even a few more kilometres,” commented course director Tony Tucknott.
Get further details on Western Australia’s biggest marathon from the event website.
Who can win the National XCM Series?
Well that depends a lot on who attends all five races, which is no mean feat. The majority of Australian mountain bikers are based in the South East, spread between Sydney and Melbourne (with lots of fast ones in Canberra). Only Round 2 at Bendigo is close to anyone in our most populated region.
So we’re left looking at riders from teams who have their airfares supported, or who have the private funds to make at least 4 major flights. If you live in Sydney (as about 6 million people do) you’d be looking at around $3000 minimum just for the flights and luggage to attend five races. Add about $1500 for accommodation, and another $1200 or more for hire cars for five races, plus event entry and you’re looking at well over $1000 per race.
If you live in Melbourne or Canberra you can trim one trip off that if you drive to Bendigo. If you live in Perth or Alice Springs you can increase the flight cost significantly. Brisbane fares a little better but only because you can drive to Bayview and sleep at home.
The reality is it’s an expensive series to attend, and while a reduced series may attract some people to do every event, it’s more likely riders will choose the events that they know are fun, or take them somewhere new, as opposed to getting to all of them. And perhaps that’s the best way to view these five events – as five national standard events. Forget about them being a part of a series unless you can actually get to at least 3 of them. Focus on getting to the races you’re excited about!
But our pick? It’s hard to bet against Brendan Johnston and he has always been committed to attending Australia’s big events. His team mate Em Viotto could take out the series, she has shown huge improvement from 2016 into 2017. Our own Imogen Smith may also contend for the overall series depending on her race schedule – but it really comes down to who commits to racing the whole series, but also who gets to the races they know they can win.