With AROC Sport breaking the news on Tuesday 19th February that their race, Capital Punishment, would not be part of the Real Insurance XCM Series, many of Australia’s passionate mountain bike racers were taken aback. Together with AROC Sport, Max Adventure pulled the Wombat 100 and Convict 100 out of the series, the Kowalski Brothers pulled the Kowalski Classic out, and Wild Horizons pulled the Highland Fling out of the previously highly publicised and well attended race series.
The MarathonMTB.com website was launched in late 2010, and we did this in an effort to show how much long distance mountain bike racing there is around the globe. With the majority of our contributor’s and team riders being based in Australia, it was a highly fortunate occurrence when the first Real Insurance XCM Series was announced in early 2011. At last, the professionalism of marathon racing in Australia was making a leap – a great step to moving towards the levels seen in XCM events in Europe and South Africa. We have had great races, great athletes and great terrain for Marathon racing for years – but pulling many of them together under one banner was a vital step. The Real Insurance XCM Series offered a cohesive series with great prize money and exposure. By attracting more elite racers, the Series was able to get some marathon development started. MTBA coaches had previously stated that Marathon racing was not within their interest, they were looking for the next Cadel. So without the support of a national body, the series and it’s supporters were helping boost the profile of the sport and continue the development of Marathon mountain bike racing.
Putting the Elite racers on a pedestal at the Real Insurance XCM Series reminded the rest of us what the achievements of these riders were – their abilities are world class, and having that success lauded would help show younger riders that their was potential for a development pathway. Without the guaranteed exposure that the series offered, it will be hard for sponsors and privateer athletes alike to justify traveling to races outside of their home cities. Victorians will race in Victoria, Canberrans will dominate races at Stromlo, and NSW racers will enjoy the races in their state.
This will not directly change the race experience for the majority of mountain bikers. Trails are still there, and your bikes are meant to be ridden! But with less exposure (such as slots on Cycling Central on SBS) future sponsorship of marathon events must be hard to secure. In the long term, this will change the races.
For now, we will have to see what will develop. There is a shift to nationalise the Marathon MTB scene in Australia, and Real Insurance are committed to helping our sport grow, as they have not pulled out of backing the XCM Series. But the shape of the series and the races it will contain will be something to discover in the months ahead. We will have news as soon is it arrives.