The Australian XCO season reaches its climax this weekend with National Championship racing at Armidale’s fast and rocky University of New England course. MarathonMTB.com got between the tape early to bring you a preview of what’s in store for riders vying for the green and gold.
The course begins with a fairly standard, flat, out and back start loop on mown grass before heading up a small pinch and into narrower trails.
After crossing a causeway, the trail begins a fun, steady climb around bermed corners, soon turning into a nice bit of forest, where the climbing continues, with a few small rock and root features to keep things interesting.
After four minutes or so, riders hit the first descent of the day, a loose, fast, bermed section in the forest on dry, skatey rock, with a few roots and one set of close-together-trees thrown in.
Then things really get challenging. Riders emerge from the trees to face a lot of A/B-line choices on the techy step-ups that begin the second climb of the day. There are a couple of tough A-lines over slippery rocks that will challenge everyone when tackled at race pace, and could cause some traffic in the larger fields.
There’s another short-ish, fun descent with some rocky features and slidey berms, before another techy climb over roots and rock features.
This takes riders to max heartrate in time for ‘The Spine’. While altered since last year, and definitely easier to ride, maintaining momentum over its uneven corners is key to getting through the A-line fast.
Then, after a short pinch climb, it’s all fun and games again, with perhaps the best descent of the day around high-banked berms and over some super doubles, before riders cross the feedzone and head into the dim pine forest for a fast, flat, and furious pedal through this piece of old-school singletrack, with a few good passing lines thrown in.
From here it’s back on, with a tricky little bit of descending over some jagged rocks that may well claim a few sidewalls, and into the next A/B-line combination, a techy heft over a big rock face, or a slow, laborious B-line option.
At the top, once again hitting top heartrate, riders need to reset fast, slam the dropper, and settle in for Mars Attacks, an intimidating, six-foot concave roll down with a fun B-line for those who are still a little shaky from the climb.
From here it’s more superbly-built berms and a short stint of grassy trail before the Poplars, a very tight, dark, tricky and slightly slippery section that requires intense concentration.
And that’s about it! Riders negotiate a few more twists and turns, pass back through the feedzone, then hit the start finish. Age group riders are on course today, with the Elite fields hitting the trails tomorrow.
Live results are available via raceresult.com