The 2018 Australian XCM Championships had a late shift to Douglas MTB Reserve, after too much wild tropical weather meant that Pallarenda wasn’t going to be in serviceable action, the champs would head to a the singletrack-heavy Douglas, with a 17km lap. You can see the course check here.
With juniors and open on Saturday, Sunday was for elite and age groups. Everyone was racing for four laps except elite men, who had 5 ahead of them.
I was in the feed zone feeding MarathonMTB.com Team members Justin Morris and Imogen Smith. Here’s what I saw.
The Tech/Feed zone was at about 2km to go – so away from the start/finish area. So were left waiting to see what the first lap would hold. Jon Odams came through ahead, with Cam Ivory and Brendan Johnston trailing, along with Tas Nankervis.
Holly Harris came through in the women with Anna Beck and Tory Thomas right behind.
Yesterday, the course got noticeably drier after the opening lap and that was happening again today, more dirt getting loose, more rocks – and more flats.
This didn’t claim riders like Johnston, Ivory or Nankervis… but a flat did claim Holly Harris, who came in on the rim, after Tory Thomas and Anna Beck had left the feed zone.
Imogen Smith was in fourth, and April McDonough and Karen Hill were also having flat tyre dramas, running out of tubes and CO2.
But what would happen in the men? And the women? The lap difference and start time differences made it look like both elite races would finish at the same time.
Johnston and Ivory were wheel to wheel, but who would come to the final 2km in the lead? All of a sudden Tory Thomas charged in, with Anna Beck right behind.
And then it was Ivory!
While Johnston was too far down to close in on Ivory, Beck did shut the gap to Thomas. Beck won with Thomas 2nd, and Harris in 3rd. Imogen Smith was 4th and Kim Willocks was 5th.
In the men’s race, Johnston was 2nd behind Ivory, who had put a ‘fake attack’ in that worked on the last lap, with Nankervis in 3rd, Michael England in 4th and Callum Carson in 5th.
Thoughts on the champs in Townsville
So what was that all about, 4 (or 5!) laps of a 17km, singletrack heavy course for a championship event. Were the trails fun? Yes, resoundingly so. Was it a huge challenge? Yes, 100%. Was it a marathon? Well yes, it was over 60km and it fits within a national championship category which is different to a UCI marathon.
And did is produce deserving winners – resoundingly YES!
But, that doesn’t mean it was ideal.
Australia has had lap-based marathon championships since at least 2011 (when our site started covering them) and they have often become overblown XCO races. With categories mixing there can be traffic issues, and less opportunity for the tactics to come in like a good point to point course can offer.
I hope to see something creative for 2019, instead of just making do. Townsville Rockwheelers probably have the best MTB club facility in Australia, and ran a schmick event. But I think there are plenty of racers who’d like a true marathon course. If XCM Champs head back in 2019, let’s see what can be planned in the next 12 months. Why not link Douglas and Pallarenda? What else can be used? Bring back the journey, the battle, the race that gets drawn out. Make marathon racing in Australia great again.