After the 2019 Cross-Country Marathon (XCM) Australian National Championships were postponed and moved from Townsville to Redlands and the Bayview Blast, many questions were left hanging over the 2020 venue and date. While The RATS MTB Club did a fantastic job hosting the Championships at Redlands, they did so without too much notice and there was word that the race would head back to Townsville for a 3rd year to honour a contract whereby Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA) had to hold a certain amount of high profile events in Queensland.
With the calendar flipping by and March rolling around, many riders and MTBA members were wondering when the event location and date would be announced. Bayview Blast was pretty good, would we go back there? Would the race head back to Townsville? Would there be a specific event created? Would the race piggyback on another prestigious marathon? Would the race piggyback on some marathon no one really had any interest in doing? Would Brendan Johnston and Holly Harris just get to be Australian XCM Champions in 2020 by default?
The passionate few did ask a lot of questions, and while rumours floated around of the race being in Canberra, then attached to a current race on the east coast, and then somewhere else entirely – today MTBA announced that the 2020 Australian XCM Championships would be held in conjunction with the Dwellingup 100, south of Perth in Western Australia, on 12 September 2020.
Reasons why racing in Dwellingup is a good thing
The internet is now buzzing with Western Australian riders being stoked that the race is on the west coast. Riders who have raced Dwellingup before are also pretty happy, and some grumpy bums over east are grumpy that they can’t ride from home to the race course. We’re a big continent, and getting around the place is part of racing a bike here in Australia. Sometimes the travel is easy, sometimes it isn’t.
Perth is the 4th largest capital city in Australia, and while it’s a long flight for most people to get there, it is just one flight for anyone in a major capital city. That wasn’t the case for Townsville (2017/2018) or Derby (2015/2016) – although having the airport about 20 minute from the venue in Townsville was pretty helpful!
This will be the first time since at least 2010 where the Australian XCM National Championships haven’t been held as a lap based race. The laps have often been around 30km, like at Mt Stromlo in 2012, but they have also been a lot shorter like at Townsville in 2018. Marathon racing isn’t about racing lots of laps, it’s about a journey. And while the Dwellingup 100 does use loops – it’s not lap based.
The race starts with a 45km loop south of Dwellingup with 1200m of climbing. It then comes back into Dwellingup for a feed zone and past where the commentators and spectatores are. You then head out of town for another 50km loop with about 700m of climbing for a total of 95kms and just under 2000m of climbing. We’re told the course is being tweaked to make sure the hard climbs are earlier in the course, to break the field up.
So with a feed zone about half way, there is still scope for good race support but without racing on laps. We’ll see if there will be another feed zone or water drop on the course, but if not, so be it. There is usually a feed zone in the second loop. There are plenty of options out there to carry enough food and water for 45-50km, and if no outside assistance is allowed then it is equal for all.
This is a Saturday race, which means flying over on Friday (or Thursday) and home on Sunday. It might mean less time pre-riding the course but that’s ok – it’s a marathon. It does mean you’re less likely to be jumping on a red eye flight home to go straight to work for Monday.
Of course, the Dwellingup 100 is a long way from lots of racers on the east coast. But so many make the trip for Cape to Cape, so the flight west isn’t impossible. Doing so twice in 6 weeks might be harder on the bottom line, but both a national title and results at Cape to Cape are a pretty big drawcard.
The Dwellingup 100 had about 200 riders in the full distance event last year, and Bayview Blast had about 150 do the full distance in 2019. Townsville had just over 100 riders do the full distance event in 2018. So there’s every chance it will be well attended, and better than those on the east coast. Even the XCM Championships in Mt Stromlo in 2012 only had a little over 110 riders sign up for the full distance event.
But, will the Championships be there as an ongoing venue? I hope not. Not because of the race or venue, but because Australia has enough great marathon races that each event could have the Championships attached to it for one year, in a cycle. So perhaps in 2020 it’s at the Dwellingup 100. In 2021 it’s at the Convict 100, then in 2022 it’s at the Flight Centre Epic, then the AMB 100 or The Willo in 2023 and Otway Odyssey in 2024. Then back to Dwellingup in 2025. That would involve event organisers working with MTBA, but it would mitigate the reactions of riders who don’t want to travel as far for XCM Champs, knowing that the major capitals all get a visit.
Entries aren’t open yet, but there are plenty of details over on the event website. Take a look, and if it looks the goods – pop it in your diary.