The Victorian regional city of Bendigo again put on a show hosting one of the highest regarded XCM races in Australia. In 2019 the marathon has been recognised as a ‘tier 1’ event in the MTBA national cup. Meaning the highest offering of national ranking points was on offer to the riders in the 100km event. With the rescheduling of the Australian XCM national championship the Golden Triangle has proved to be at an even better time as a tune up event for the national title.
However, beyond the drawcard of national points and high profile competition the appeal of this race remains this coupled with it’s unique community atmosphere which is still very strong. Seemingly the entire Bendigo cycling community get behind the epic in some capacity to make it the flawless annual event it has become. People come from far and wide to experience the race and are rest assured that the organisation is a well oiled machine. Very commendable considering it is done nearly entirely through volunteer hours. There are a few XCM events in Australia still run by the local club, this is one of them and undoubtedly one of the best. It is also an opportunity for the club to showcase the amazing cycling talent being fostered in this town which has become famous for the amount of professional riders/ national champions it has developed over the years. The investment in junior development programs is evident at the epic. Dozens of 8-16 year old kids can be seen shredding around the trails putting many of the more adult aged competitors to shame, a really inspiring sight to see for anyone passionate/ interested in the future of MTB racing in Australia. The separate 30km kids race had some fierce competition, results found on the results portal below.
In the more senior elite race it was looking to be a battle for supremacy among the Victorian riders upon looking at the start line. The evergreen Adrian Jackson fresh off a top performance at the XCO national titles up against the local hero’s Russell and Tasman Nankervis along with young talent Tyla Windham from Wodonga who has been turning heads in many events of late.
Cooler conditions greeted the riders this year but the same dry, dusty, rocky conditions that have become to typify this race were still well entruly present. The Bendigo region along with much of rural Australia is experiencing an extended drought. Riding through the trails of the epic event highlights the severity of the conditions in this particular region. Despite this, the trails built and sustained by the Bendigo MTB club are still as challenging and fun as ever. A slight change to the route this year meant riders would hit the single track that used to be the climax of the race at the beginning as a ‘prologue loop’. This meant hitting some trails that usually are experienced deep in the hurt locker late in the race earlier on with fresher and faster legs.
It was here that the initial selection was made, 2 main groups emerged at the front of the men’s race. Tasman & Russell Nankervis were joined by Adrian Jackson for the 1st group whilst behind a group of 5 emerged including 2018 world XCM competitor Ben May, Bernard Cossar-Smith, Karl Michelin Beard, Shane Roberts and your author Justin Morris. There were also a couple of riders caught between the groups including eventual 4th place Tyla Windham.
Tasman Nankervis stated “we were all together (3) until the 65km mark where I knew Russ was going to be the strongest today”. The brothers rode together for a while until Russell eventually broke brother Tasman to take the win by 4mins. “It was a ding dong battle between us for a while” Russell said. Tasman has been splitting his cycling commitments between road and MTB of late as he races for Australian NRS team GPM-Stulz whilst brother Russell opts for purely MTB racing. Perhaps this was the difference today, the greater volume of time on the fat tyre machine.
After the race both brothers were involved in presenting the ‘Lowndesy award’. An award presented in honour of local Bendigo professional cyclist Jason Lowndes who was tragically taken in a car accident in 2017. Both brothers spoke with great admiration and respect of their fallen training buddy who was a big fan of the Golden Triangle epic. Very nice to see a memorium of a champion in this manner.
Behind there was an exciting race happening in itself, Cossar Smith fresh of some form after the easter in the alice set off on the second 50km lap with a solid pace. This held with some help from the others in the group until the real splits occurred with about 35km remaining, with the final podium spot on offer there was still plenty to race for. Your author (Justin Morris) committed to emptying the tank and got the 5th place as reward.
In the women’s race Emma Viotto from Canberra whom has only being racing MTB’s for 3 years now proved her background as a road racer coupled with a determination for success in this discipline is enough to produce results. Viotto stated “I wanted to stay behind the locals for the opening kilometre’s to learn the good lines”. This proved effective as by the half way mark she had amassed a solid lead ahead of Emily Sherwell and Kim Willocks and continued on to take a convincing victory. Viotto will focus on the rescheduled XCM national championships as her goal for the next few months and will back up from this win with the ‘Convict 100‘ in Sydney next weekend. Full results here.
Another successful Golden Triangle Epic which is now justifiably a ‘classic’ on the Australian XCM calendar. Always worth the visit, this being my 4th consecutive Epic it is a race always worth making an effort to get to!