The 2015 Australian Marathon MTB Champs landed on Derby in a big way. The trails have been open since early February, and the town itself is busily preparing itself to cope with the mountain bikers who visit each weekend. Or in this case, a national championship.
After numerous age group races were hard fought on damp trails on Saturday, Sunday saw the elite men and women ready to duke it out. The morning was mild, but not warm. Derby is a small town, so it was easy enough to start on the main street and take the race right through the centre of town and up Cascade Road.
In the men’s race, it wasn’t long until Mark Tupalski put his big training block to work and drove the pace on the front, with Brendan Johnston right with him. The climb was about 4km long, and although other riders such as defending champion Andrew Blair were in contact, by the time the singletrack was reached, Tupalski and Johnston entered it together, with Blair back in 3rd.
These two worked hard to stay in front, but clearly Blair was also working hard behind. Letting it all go on one of the last descents, Johnston pulled away from Tupalski.
“I wasn’t overly confident coming in to today, I’ve been on it for a while, since the beginning of the National Series” said Johnston “so I’m getting towards the end of my peak I think and I was worried I might be over the hill but I was able to pull this one out so I’m really happy.”
Tupalski crossed for second, just ahead of a fast finishing Blair in third. Shaun Lewis and Michael England rounded out the top 5.
The Elite women started just after the men, and instead of racing 3 x 30km laps, they had a 10km start loop followed by two laps. Starting up the same climb, Jenny Blair showed her strength and put a 50m gap into the rest of the women’s field, who were left to look at each other.
“I took advantage of the climb at the start and got away,” stated Blair.
Jenni King was another race favourite but suffered a double puncture and pulled out. While the other women did get back to Blair, she made sure she changed the pace a lot to reassert her time gap and ended up alone. Rebecca Locke was just 2 minutes down coming into the final lap, with Eliza Kwan behind.
But in the start finish area is was ACT based Kwan who crossed the line in 2nd place, with Locke just behind, a tight race that was decided within the final 10km.
Sarah Riley came in soon after in 4th, with Karen Hill in 5th.
All racers praised the quality of trails on offer at Derby, but were adamant that they made for a very demanding marathon course. The softer areas with a lot of tea tree mulch took a lot of power to get through, something that really adds up with race times over 4 hours.
The XCM Champs will visit Derby again in 2016, and for those thinking the 70 and 90km races for elite women and men respectively would be short, they’ve now got an insight and a better idea what to train for.
Full results are listed at onlineresults.com.au