Australian Cyclocross National Championship Weekend 2017/18
Posted by auscxmag
Posted in News
words: Louis Stibbard #lookoutforlouis photography: Tim Loft and Jeff Curtes
Mud. Speed. Atmosphere. All the elements of great Cyclocross racing were en pointe in Adelaide for the 2017-18 Cyclocross National Championships and the 2017 National CX Series Round 4. The weekend will go down in the annals as a great spectacle, with almost European conditions across the two days of racing.
With more than 11mm of rain falling on Thursday and Friday, by the time the sun tried to make an appearance on Saturday, the track surface was nice and tacky – perfect for Cyclocross. The day began under cloud cover and intermittent showers persisted throughout the afternoon. One could say, it was a mere prelude to what would come…
As much as it pains me to say it, the Elite Men Championship race was really a race for 2nd because Chris Jongerwaard (JBLOOD) has been unstoppable this season and he certainly wasn’t showing any sign of weakness. JBlood slowly broke away from the bunch and then frankly, shamed them. It must be said, however, that Garry Milburn and Chris Aitken provided some quality entertainment, racing wheel-to-wheel and putting in super-human red faced efforts. (No, really. Chris Aitken was the colour of a prize winning blush tomato dusted in filth) The racing was fiercely competitive and spectacular to watch.
The Elite Women put on a great show, with Peta Mullens and Nat Redmond battling it out from the gun. They took their turn in the spotlight and raced flat out until about a lap and a half to go, when Peta made her break and held on to take a convincing win. Rebecca Locke and Naomi Williams were WillyLocked in a fierce battle for 3rd and 4th place, working together to stay in the contest and providing a great exhibition of elite racing for the spectators. In the dying laps, Naomi opened the gap and finished ahead of defending champion, Rebecca.
In the Under 23 Men Championship race, Jayden Ward and Adam Blazevic raced wheel-to-wheel for the entire race. It was a fast paced, thrilling race with Ward launching an attack in the final lap that would see him take the win from Blazevic in 2nd and Jack Hogan on the podium in 3rd place Now, Adam Blazevic is a true legend and his achievements cannot be understated, but Jayden Ward entered this season with a goal to “give ‘cross a red hot go” and aim for the stripes – so this one is the fairytale race of the 2017-18 Championships.
Zach Larsson definitely woke up in beast mode on Saturday for the Junior Men Championship race. According to the timing system, Larsson set the fastest lap time of the day in his opening lap (yes, faster than JBLOOD’s!), which opened up a gap from Anakin Williams, who must be recognised for his consistency and hard chasing effort. Look out Elites, this is a dynamic duo to watch. There was a very close contest for 3rd place between Ben Weir and Sam Walsh, who finished just one second ahead.
A notable championship race was the Men’s Masters 4, where an epic battle between Jeff Curtes and Paul Spencer took all the attention away from the leader, Bradley Morton, who was so far in front that no-one seemed to realise he was winning. Or was that just me? In any case, it made for exciting racing and it was only when Spencer took a tumble that Curtes opened up the gap and confirmed his 2nd place on the podium in his penultimate Australian race before his return to the US. Paul Spencer took 3rd place but Bradley Morton was the happiest man in Adelaide on the top step.
Another exciting Championship race was the Women’s Masters 4, where the battle between Merridy Pearce, Samantha Phillips and Diane Nelson was an absolute cracker, with a nail-biting sprint finish that saw Samantha take the stripes by just two seconds from Diane, with Merridy finishing in 3rd.
The Under 15 Men also had a tight finish, after an early lead by Jacob Currie, who was reeled back in by Albert Turner, who raced him wheel to wheel all the way to the finish and took the win.
NCXS RND 4
Rain, hail and no shine; that’s the easiest way to describe Sunday’s NCXS Round 4. The thunder, the looming cloud masses, and a further overnight drenching, meant the promise of only one thing. Mud. And lots of it!
It seemed everyone wanted to be friends with Teams InSeight & Focus Attaquer , who were well protected from the weather. But there’s warmth in numbers and spirit and the atmosphere of the weekend of racing wasn’t at all dampened by the atrocious weather. Perhaps the best thing about the NCXS Round 4 was its proximity to the championships, which brought together the whole CX community. All the teams, their tents and sponsors, mechanics and merchants joined the throng alongside the crazies from ‘Make Cross Weird’ and the hooligans surrounding the beer tent. There were intrepid photographers aplenty, capturing the spectacle brilliantly, putting life and limb on the line to prove that we did actually live (crash, fall, laugh) through the racing. Add a large contingent of spectators and you have a village atmosphere igniting the rAdelaide scene we’ve all come to love.
Conditions were horrendous/hilarious but as close as we’ll ever get to European style racing. There were some stunning crashes and falls, with most riders getting a real taste of the mud. It would be interesting to know if anyone didn’t come off a bike on Sunday. They would deserve a special mention, although they should have been pushed over if they left Zombie Park without their share of the mud.
Podiums for Round 4 of the National Cyclocross Series were hard fought, particularly for those who copped the worst of the torrential rain.
In Elite Men, JBlood took another convincing win over Tom Chapman in 2nd and Chris Aitken in 3rd. After an early stint at the front, Garry Millburn was chased down in the 3rd lap and finished in 5th. Peta Mullens rode another great race in the Elite Women, with a battle between Natalie Redmond and April McDonough for 2nd and 3rd. Peta was unstoppable and led the race from start to finish with a substantial win of 35 seconds.
In the Junior Men, Zach Larsson and Ben Weir battled it out for the first four laps, with Larsson applying the gas in the final two laps to take a dominant win over Weir, with Sam Walsh in 3rd place.
By the time the Women’s racing was due to start, conditions were at their worst. Lisa Brydon blitzed the field in Master’s Women 1 and in Masters Women 2, Rebecca Gross dominated for the entire race. Gemma Kernich easily took Masters Women 3 and the podium in Women’s Masters 4 mirrored Saturday’s results, with Samantha Phillips taking a blistering win over Diane Nelson and Merridy Pearce.
Congratulations to Port Adelaide Cycling Club and MTBA for dialing up the kind of racing conditions that every cyclocross rider wishes for and for putting on another fabulous weekend of racing for National Champs and the National Series. On behalf of the cyclocross community of Australia, we salute you and the many volunteers who staged the event and made it such a successful weekend for our sport. Thank you to everyone who contributed and participated over the weekend. See you in Melbourne!