Having now attended many marathon mountain bike races at home and abroad, I have become accustomed at recognising what makes a new race take off. The Australian race calendar is flooded with events, and clashes are frequent. This is not a terrible scenario given how spread out our population is, but it makes it very hard to know where to race, and when. For riders who want to race, the decisions must be more difficult. What race is well run, or offers a suitable category, or which will really test me?
Looking at some of the most popular races in Australia, like the Highland Fling, Flight Centre Epic, Convict 100 and Kona Odyssey, we have races that have a story. They have a prestige which makes them a goal for Elites to win, but they are also a known entity that just about any bike rider who has done a couple of races will have a story about. Or their mate will. Many other races could claim similar popularity.
In June last year, I was introduced to Alan Vogt at a Singletrack Mind race at Kowen Forest. Alan had been out building trails on that cold winters day as we got to race on a lot of the Kowalski’s handiwork. They worked, we played. It didn’t really seem fair but I don’t think anyone at that race really questioned it. We spoke about his race that was planned for the coming September, and it sounded amazing. A race that would be a blast to ride, and that might actually shut up all the whingers who complain about ‘too much fire trail’ in marathon races. Well, that was my hope, that it would make people realise how hard a marathon made up of almost entirely singletrack is. I think Alan was more concerned about putting on a great event on awesome trails.
I raced the first Kowalski Classic in September 2012, and actually had mixed feelings. The trails were great, but would the course allow for good racing? There were a couple of hiccups, but the general consensus was that it was a fun event that had even more potential. As Race Director, Vogt took on a lot of feedback. There had been some issues with course marking, but nothing beyond normal for some races.