As the Australian MTB Marathon Championships hit the sweet trails of Stromlo Forest Park this Sunday, excitement is ready to peak as well. The Canberra Off-Road Cycling Club’s reputation for slick event organisation, combined with a course that takes in a huge chunk of the fun trails on offer at the Park, brings with it the promise of a fun and challenging day out on the bike. For most riders the aim will be to ride smooth and strong, keep food levels topped up and get to the other side of the race in a time that makes them feel proud of the effort they put in along the way.
The National Champs title adds an extra carrot for some of the country’s quicker kids. We caught up with Jodie Willet, Jenny Fay, Dylan Cooper, Andrew Blair and Subaru-MarathonMTB.com’s Graeme Arnott to hear their thoughts leading up to the event. We threw the following questions at them. Keep reading below to for an online glimpse into their pre-race thoughts.
– How do you rate your form heading into the race?
– Which riders do you think are going to push you the most out there?
– What makes Stromlo attractive to you as an event location?
– If you could request one song to blast over the speakers at the start of the race to psych you up, what would it be?
– Is there a specific area of your riding you’ve been working on lately with this event in mind?
– How much food and energy drink do you anticipate guzzling down between the start line and the finishing straight?
– What are you looking forward to most next weekend?
The Form: I’m happy with my form although I don’t think I’ve done enough long rides or races – I’ve just been loving the XCO so much that anything more than two hours has been a stretch for me.
The Chase: Jenny Fay is obviously in awesome form so she will be tough to beat. Former Australian Road Champ, Ruth Corset ,also told me she would be racing. She just completed a Half Ironman in Cairns and I know she goes well up hills!
The Location: I like the fact that the course is close to the city and not hours away from the airport. The trails there are always challenging and fun although I’m not sure Skyline is included – I love that trail!
Start Line Tunes: ‘Levels’ by Avicii. I’d really like to see a MTB clip with that as the soundtrack.
The Training: I haven’t been doing any specific training, just been trying to get out on my bike as much as I can and enjoy riding. My priority has been my work coaching with Progressive Coaching Systems (PCS) and resurrecting my massage business after spending six weeks away racing World Cups.
The Food: I usually work on three Shotz gels per hour of the race plus the electrolyte tabs in my bottles (maybe four litres, depending on the weather). I’m too much of a gumby to deal with unwrapping solid food while I’m racing.
The Best Bit: I’m most looking forward to catching up with the MTB crew! Having so much singletrack in a marathon will be awesome fun too – it sure beats kilometres of fire road. I’m NOT looking forward to the cold!
The Form: I’d say strong….Strong to very strong.
The Chase: Shaun Lewis will be tough to beat and has shown how strong he is with two marathon wins already this year. We train a lot together but have had completely different preparations for this race. I went to Alice and am recovering/maintaining from that overload and he had a break and a rebuild after Convict 100. So it is hard to pick each other’s form. Pete Hatton (Hatto) will be either super dangerous or pull out, he is a bit up and down but when he is on one he is awesome.
The Location: When you race a home World Championships on a course, you always have a soft spot for it. Plus with all the other big races we have had there, it is hard not to have fond memories. The only shame is that we won’t be racing the really iconic trails like cardiac and hammer-time this weekend.
Start Line Tunes: There is a certain song that I like to hear, but for maximum effect it would have to be introduced by the commentator on the PA in a wildy German accent. Something like: “National Marathon-Meisterschaften zweitausendzwölf mit HIGHWAY TO HELL! ……Baa da da…Baa da da…Baa da da, da da, da, da da.”
The Training: Core strength because the course is very physical and recovery because I came out of Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro pretty tired.
The Food: Eight Gus (half of them caffeinated), and fair few bidons of GU Brew depending on the temperature.
The Best Bit: I’m really looking forward to hurting for 4 hours.
The Form: Not too good to be honest. This year hasn’t been full of training, but the past few weeks especially have been marred with either health issues, work or horrid weather (which I don’t train in). So I’ve done below the minimum and, while I’d like to say I’m flying, I’m not going to pretend.
The Chase: It’s hard to say. It’s a strange time of year to have a national champs. Given the nature of the course I’d say anyone who’s been training well. I’m out of the loop, so I don’t know who that is. But Shaun Lewis and Andy Blair have been on the course more than anyone, so that should help them. Hatton is always strong too.
The Location: It’s a short ride from my house! Also, they’ve been doing a lot of work on the trails. The climbs will be better, but too much of it has been converted from cool unpredictable trails to singletrack highways. I preferred it loose and sketchy.
Start Line Tunes: The sound of tension and nerves in the air. Otherwise, old school techno.
The Training: Trying to get fit generally. Getting rides over three hours or more than four rides a week has been tough.
The Food: Enough for the gut to complain afterwards! Maybe around 10 gels and four litres of electrolytes.
The Best Bit: Giving it my all, hopefully not totally creeping, and bailing ASAP to fly out for my two-month holiday in the Central American tropics!
The Form: Form is not too bad for me. I’ve been trying to squeeze in as much riding as I can between work and sleep. It is not world beating by any means, but I feel good.
The Chase: I’m honestly not too sure who has entered. I think that it is going to largely be a solo affair and I’ll be pushing myself. The course is tough. I expect big time gaps and long stretches of soul searching.
The Location: I love Stromlo. The trails are amazing, it is not too far from home in Sydney and the hot showers are quality. A hard ride on awesome trails, a lap around the crit track to finish then a hot shower: Paris-Roubaix dreaming.
Start Line Tunes: Eye of the Tiger! Highway to Hell – a TransAlp favourite. Otherwise silence then the countdown to the gun is all I need. Music is for winding down.
The Training: I haven’t done anything I’d say is specific for this race, but I have been trying to get my overall fitness up in preparation. I’ve been doing some ergo sessions at Jet Cycles for the past couple of months once a week and have had a few reconnaissance trips to Stromlo to check out the course.
The Food: Probably not as much as I should. I’ll have to remind myself to eat and drink, there are not too many opportunities and it will be easy to forget. Maybe two bottles per lap and four or five gels, a banana, a few snakes. I never know. A big dinner the night before, muesli for breakfast and it should be right!
The Best Bit: I’m looking forward to a good hard race. I want to push myself and hurt and in the end feel like I have done as well as I possibly could. No regrets. A few beers afterwards with good friends are hopefully in the mix too. It is only half about the racing.
The Form: I am in good shape physically and mentally. I believe I have maintained my race form from my last race, the Convict 100. I try not to doubt myself but I always hear the dark voices on race week…makes me nervous!!
The Chase: I haven’t seen a race start list yet, but I suspect girls like Jodie Willett, Peta Mullens and Becky Mates will be in their prime form to win that coveted jersey! [As an Irish National, Jenny is ineligible for the jersey but will ensure the other girls work hard for it.]
The Location: Lets go from the finish backwards…the hot showers! It doesn’t require flying to, families and friends can gather there and stay for the event with other sporting facilities to entertain them while we race. Crowds are important for rider support so an event location that can entertain both parties ticks my boxes!
Start Line Tunes: AC/DC Thunderstruck of course!!
The Training: I have been using all of the recent marathon races to improve my ability to race for longer at a high tempo. I am also looking after my weight, which is important for really climby courses like this one!
The Food: The nature of the course doesn’t allow too much time to unwrap my usual jam sambos, so I will stick to my half hourly intake of Endura gels along with four 750ml bottles of Endura Rehydration Formula fluid throughout.
The Best Bit: Somebody lifting me off my bike across the finish line wearing a smile!!!
Online entry has closed, but onsite entries for the full, half and junior marathons are still available at set times on Saturday and Sunday. If you’re feeling good and the weekend is still free come along and get ready for a good chase. All the info you need is available via the CORC website.
Check back to the MarathonMTB.com site after the event too for a selection of reports. Jodie Willett and Graeme Arnott will be covering the long distance men’s and women’s events. We look forward to hearing how their pre-race expectations matched the racing on the day.