The race that captures the attention of the endurance crowd in the south east corner of Australia is fast approaching – in fact it is just days away! Once the fuss about the Melbourne Cup has settled, the talk of favourites about the real race that counts begins.
On November 9th, the 10th Highland Fling will run at Bundanoon. Falling at a time when elite racers are coming back into training, or are just off the Cape to Cape, means the pace is fast. More than that, it’s a prestigious event on the Australian marathon calendar, and a win here is something to be very proud of. So it’s time to look over the start lists to see who might take away some of the category wins.
With nine entrants, the Elite women’s race is actually well attended. It’s a sad fact that elite fields, and women’s fields, don’t attract the numbers they could. Combine them for an Elite women’s field and it can be smaller again. Just shy of nine riders, there are very good riders in the field. At first glance it may look like another Peta Mullens v Jenny Fay affair, as in 2013.
But that neglects the fact that it’s still about 112km of racing, and anything can happen. Rebecca Locke rode to a brilliant 2nd at the Kowalski Classic, and Naomi Hansen will be riding hard to finish ahead of Cristy Henderson to seal her Maverick Series win. Naomi Williams showed her MTB class with 5th at the XCM National Champs, and of course we have Imogen Smith ‘fresh’ off the Crocodile Trophy, with the fire in the belly for racing that nine days of stage racing can either ignite, or extinguish. In this case it’s flared up.
With 21 riders, all eyes will be on Shaun Lewis as he aims to hold onto his Maverick Series lead, and hopefully score the race win. This is something his team mate Andy Blair will also be chasing, as it’s just about the only big win that eludes him in Australia. These two will be making the race very hard for others. But with the likes of Mark Tupalski and Chris Hamilton racing, can the Swell-Specialized riders make it hard enough to unhitch the TORQ duo? Lewis and Blair have a deeper bag of race experience and possibly tactics to reach into, and certainly have oodles of time spent on the course.
Other key hitters come from the ACT, as previous winner Dylan Cooper could put a strong showing in, yet it’s more likely his team mate and 2013 winner Brendan ‘Trekky’ Johnston will revel on a course that suits a driver like him. James Downing has had a super year, but it’s unlikely he’ll unsettle the podium save for wheelie ability.
Jason English may well line up with a dirty bike, slow leak, and win. You just never know. He’s had a huge block of training as he was expecting to be racing The Munga in December. He may well ride everyone off his wheel in the closing 30km. And that’s not all – what about Lewis Cressy, Phillip Orr, Ondrej Slezak, Daniel MacDonald… any of these riders might upset the race.
100 Miles of Fun
Both Ed McDonald and Andrew Hall are to ‘go to’ riders for the win here. Hally just finished 10th at the Crocodile Trophy, taking the most amateur and most Australian jerseys at the same time. In all seriousness, he rode with aggression and maturity, and could well be in the shape of his life if he’s recovered well. Ed didn’t do the Croc. But possibly had a similar volume in training over the same time anyway. Although riders like Jason McAvoy, and Croc finshers Clayton Locke and myself are also down – it’s unlikely that we will unsettle Ed and Andrew.
The women’s race will be between Larri Wallbridge and Wendy Stevenson. This could actually end up quite exciting after the 5hr mark, and is a hard one to pick.
We’ll have a full rundown of the day once the race has been won.