Australian Cyclocross National Championships 2016/17
Posted by auscxmag
Posted in News
words: Sean Couley photography: Riding Focus
The Australian National Cyclocross Championships were held in Adelaide, South Australia, on Saturday to decide who would be the 2016/17 champions across Elite, Under 23, Junior and all UCI Masters categories. It was the second time the Port Adelaide Cycling Club had held the National Championships with the club first hosting the event in 2014, but this time Mother Nature came to the party delivering rain in the days leading up to the event adding a little extra to the features of Adelaide’s ‘Zombie Park’.
The National Championship course set by Adelaide’s technical guru Neil Ross captured all the features of Zombie Park that people who have raced there previously enjoy. There were the fast long straights that Adelaide courses are famous for, but there were also carefully placed corners that rewarded riders who paid attention to tyre pressures. There was a giant mud bog at the first real corner of the lap and greasy conditions dictated the day’s racing, but the favourite spectator point was focused on the steepest incline of the day which came straight after the steepest decline of the day, which forced every single rider off their bike due to the lack of traction available.
The morning races held decided all masters categories from Masters 1 (30-34 years) all the way through to Master 7+ (60 years and beyond) along with Junior categories for Under 15 and Under 17. All races were both well attended and hotly contested with very close racing across all categories. Particular note must go to Masters 3 Men where Andrew Low, Leigh DeLuca and Carl Fokkema gave it everything vying for fourth place with the result ending in a sprint finish, showing how competitive the morning races really are.
Once the morning races were finished, it started to rain. The short 30 minutes of rain produced a course for the elite races in the afternoon that was far more treacherous,s giving riders much less traction and deeper mud to navigate in many sections.
As the Elite women lined up it began to rain once more. On the start line was the strongest line up ever seen for the women’s title and the irony was not lost on me that I could hear last year’s champion Lisa Jacobs on commentary duties as racer’s lined up. Peta Mullens (SRAM-Seight) had taken to the start line as a potential winner along with Naomi Williams and Rebecca Locke (Team WillyLocke), April McDOnough (Flanders-Nemisis), Mel Anset (My Mountain) as well as local girls Terri Rhodes (LIV/Giant) and Nat Redmond (Focus).
As the start whistle blew it was April McDonough who was the fastest starter with Peta Mullens close behind, while Locke and Williams were chasing together another 5 seconds behind. Within the first three laps of the race McDonough was setting such a pace that she was forcing the hand of the rest of the field. Terri Rhodes was stuck alone in fifth place while ahead of her Naomi Williams was in a similar position just five seconds behind the battle going on up front. Bec Locke had bridged across to McDonough and Mullens putting the latter into third place. Another lap had passed and it seemed that McDonough’s early pace setting was starting to affect her as Locke took the lead with Mullens on her wheel. With two laps to go it was Peta Mullens who took the lead in the race putting a small two second gap into Bec Locke and a further 10 seconds back to McDonough and as the riders came through the finish straight to the sound of the bell for their last lap Mullens was leading and looking to be the next Australian Champion. With half a lap remaining calls were being made over commentary that Bec Locke had regained the lead. Shortly after this, Locke came through the finishing horseshoe with Mullens close behind on her wheel. Locke came into the finish straight with her head down pedalling has hard as possible, so much so that she did not look up as she crossed the line to take the championship. Peta Mullens finished second just two seconds behind, while the major animator of the race April McDonough finished a further 10 seconds behind in third.
The final race of the championship consisted of the Elite Men as well as Under 23 and Junior Men. All of the country’s dominant riders of the year were on the start line including 2014/15 champion Chris Jongewaard and his team captain Paul Redenbach (Flanders-Nemisis), Chris Aitken (Focus-Attaquer), Garry Millburn (Speedvagen X MAAP) and Adrian Jackson (Curve Cycling). Also lining up was World Cup mountain biker Cameron Ivory (Specialized) after a long absence from the sport.
From the very beginning of the race the pace was hot at the front and it was Jongewaard leading the field through the first part of the course with Garry Millburn locked to his wheel. In a group just behind the lead pair were Chris Aitken, Shaun Lewis, Paul Redenbach and Harry Carpenter. As the race progressed in the very wet and muddy conditions Jongewaard and Millburn extended their lead over the rest of the field while Aitken set out in chase on his own. After only one lap Shaun Lewis had a race ending crash leaving Carpenter and Redenbach chasing behind Aitken in fourth and fifth. By the midpoint of the race, Jongewaard created a small gap of Millburn as he started to ride off the front towards victory. From this point in the race the first three places would not change as Jongewaard extended his lead throughout the remainder of the race to cross the finish line for the win 34 seconds ahead of Millburn, while Chris Aitken completed his solo effort for third further 49 seconds behind.
In the Under 23 race Tom Chapman (Focus-Attaquer) rode an excellent race to take the win over a valiant chase by Ben Walkerden in second 33 seconds behind, while Nick Smith (Get Rad Racing) put all his European experience on display in the sloppy conditions to claim third place.
Congratulations must go to Port Adelaide Cycling Club and Mountain Bike Australia for producing a very professionally run National Championship that produced worthy winners on the day on a thoroughly challenging yet fun course to ride.