The township of Bright, in Victoria, Australia, is over run by cyclists this March long weekend. With top Australian mountain bikers flooding the town for the Subaru National MTB Championships, and masses of road cyclists staying here before the 3 Peaks road event, there’s barely a spare bed in town.
Today, the Elite men’s and women’s XCO races took place near Pioneer Park. The course was a little over 5km with a out 170m of climbing per lap. Lots of singletrack, lots of pine trees, and lots of dust. There was nothing overly technical in the course, but you needed to be a good climber.
“It’s a course for skinny men” Jared Graves was heard to say.
Racing was underway at 9:30am, with the Elite women, under 23 women and under 19 women heading off. As each round of the Subaru National Series was so closely fought, there were predictions of another tightly fought battle. But after the first lap, there were clear gaps between Bec Henderson in first, Peta Mullens in second, and Jenni King in third. These positions didn’t change for the whole 5 laps, and Bec won by over a minute. The closest racing was from 4th – 6th, with positions swapping between Tory Thomas, Rowen Fry and Jodie Willett for just about the whole race, although that was the order they finished in.
Jenny Fay rode a very strong and determined race, seemingly alone the whole time, yet highly consistent. With the focus of her season being in the middle of the year, this amazing athlete may be stepping up another level again.
Holly Harris and Em Parkes continued their close racing from U19 to U23, with Harris winning the Championships from a hard chasing Parkes.
In the heat of the afternoon, the men were set to go. Skinsuits were on, bikes were looking fast, and the faces stern. McConnell, Graves, Mather, Blair, Cooper, Lewis (both varieties), Tupalski, Chancellor, Jackson… the list went on. After the start straight U-turn Andy Blair was in the lead, but ended up in about 8th position after the first lap, with Jared Graves leading just ahead of McConnell. By the end of the 2nd lap McConnell had moved into the lead, and the gap grew consistently. Tupalski was in 3rd, and Adrian Jackson was in 4th. But Blair was charging through the field, and by races end had overtaken Jackson for 4th.
The U23 men started just behind, and it was Jack Haig and Cam Ivory duking it out, until Ivory was clear, and in command of the race. His strength throughout the National Series was on show, and he rode into the green and gold jersey.
Full results are available online.