FOCUS Ozzie Cross
Posted by auscxmag
Posted in News
Ozzie Cross, stunning weather, a carnival atmosphere – ticked all the boxes for a perfect Australia Day celebration
Words: Sean Couley & Sarah Holmes Photography: Focus Bikes Australia, Steve Holmes & Micheal Young
I arrived into Adelaide on the afternoon before Australia day for what would be Australia’s first cyclocross race of 2014, the Focus Ozzie Cross. I was sat in the car on the way to the airport while every man and his dog were somewhere along route on old Willunga hill, or in front of the TV to watch the fireworks between the big guns of the pro tour happening at my destination. But that was fine by me as I couldn’t wait to land in Adelaide to get set up and ready for what was to be an awesome day of cyclocross, a bit of the final stage of the tour down under, all within the very centre of Adelaide.
The Focus Ozzie Cross race was one of the support events of the tour down under, and was to be held on the morning of the last stage, right in the centre of Adelaide alongside the start/finish line of the final TDU stage.
I rode the short distance to the event from my hotel. It must be noted how close and accessible Adelaide is – Even when a major sporting event is blocking a large proportion of inner city streets. On arrival I did the usual sign up at registration. The ladies that volunteer are always cheerful at the Port Adelaide CC events and today was no exception. Once I had my number pinned on it was time for a couple of practice laps.
It was the first time Port Adelaide CC had used the location at Ityamai-pina (park 15) on Bartels Road and from the get go I realised it had a lot of the features required for a fast, technical and fun course. In particular, the section of 180 degree turns on the side of a steep loose embankment was a challenge, but rideable in practice. Another winding section through olive trees was very slippery and required riders to be fast and smooth to take advantage. Following this, there was a 50m gravel pit which I heard described as ‘kitty litter for cyclocross’ and required all the skill of a Flemish pro to keep momentum and not dismount. From here were a few fast off camber turns, one sandy corner, a ditch to negotiate (twice) and one final sand pit before the finish line.
With over 150 entrants signing on to race over the five grades within three races, there was definitely going to be some great racing, which kicked off with the little crossers on a modified course. Cheers and smiles were in order as they mini racers blasted around the course.
Next up was the combined open category and C grade cyclocross. The open category were let loose a minute before C grade with the 30 entrants of C grade following. It was good to see a mixture of age and skill level tackle the course with varied results. Watching racers in the gravel made my legs burn as it looked difficult.
Following on was the next race consisting of the Women’s category as well as B grade men. This was the biggest field for the day with over 20 women and over 40 men in this field. It was a stacked women’s field with Sarah Holmes, Catherine O’shea, Jackie Schapel, Gemma Kernich and late entry Peta Mullens on a borrowed bike for her first ever cyclocross event. For the B grade men’s event it was the biggest field of the day with forty three starters.
As I pinned on a number and raced B grade, I asked new member of the Focus Bikes Australia CX Team Sarah Holmes for her account of the women’s race…
Excited to get a great result in my first cx race for the FOCUS BIKES AUSTRALIA CX TEAM on the incredible Focus Mares CX 1.0, I was keen to test the legs and get it underway.
In the womens race, sign on saw some world class pace in Gracie Elvin (2013 & 2014 Australian Road National Champion) and Peta Mullens (Wiggle Honda Pro & Current XCO MTB National Champion), combine these engines with a few mexicans – including current XC Eliminator MTB Champ – Kath O’Shea (and her impressive new years resolution!) and the local CX regulars so the pace was sure to be hot. Gracie cut a few laps, and decided it was going to be way too much fun, and the risk of injury in her back-to-back national champ kit was far too great in the lead up to the Tour of Qatar.
I had a great start, leading the field out to the zig-zag section, from there it was Peta who overtook as her running skills kicked in. As to be expected, Peta put down a speck of power and quickly got herself a small gap on myself & Jenny Macca, Jenny & I then swapped places for the next lap or so, before I managed to nudge out a nice little gap. Loving all aspects of the course and excited to be having a strong race, I was really happy to secure a 15 second gap on Jenny, to finish in 2nd place, 33 seconds back from Peta.
The B grade men’s had a full 6 rows on the start grid and I was on row 4. From a good clean start I skirted up the inside to get within top 10 by the first tight corner. From here the barely rideable section in practice on the embankment had deteriorated to soft thick unrideable dust which meant shouldering the bike for a very long run. Course designer Neil Ross had also added a barrier for good measure on the second to last uphill. From here the racing was fast and clean. I rode the kitty litter gravel every lap and managed to at one point get into 3rd place before crashing in the olive trees on the second last lap and eventually finishing seventh. Although the race was just 30 minutes I was happy to finish as the sun was getting hot.
Now it was time for the final race and main event, the A grade men’s. It was going to be a showdown, as so many of the stars of the National CX scene were in attendance. National Champion Allan Iacuone pinned on number one and was joined by Lewis Rattray, John Groves, Sam Watson and locals Shaun Lewis, Jade Lean, Chris Luxton and Mark Chadwick.
The start was frenetic and as the first corner was rounded elbows looked sharp. Everybody dismounted for the loose embankment except Shaun Lewis who rode most until the barrier. There was plenty of jostling for position and by the time the first lap was completed there were fiver riders out in front just ahead of the main field – Rattray was leading followed by Iacuone, Lewis, Jade Lean and Mark Chadwick. From there Shaun Lewis attacked on the second lap to take the lead as Iacuone held second place and Rattray dropping to third after his early effort. From here Shaun Lewis was riding at a level above the rest of the field, slowly extending his lead each lap. By the time there was one lap to go, Lewis had a 30 second lead over Iacuone in second, with Jade Lean, Lewis Rattray and Mark Chadwick a further 20 seconds behind. From here all riders finished strongly and did not change positions. Shaun Lewis had plenty of time in the finish straight to zip up his skinsuit and give a two-armed victory salute.
The event was finished up with presentation. Just about everyone was a winner, or at least it felt that way. Port Adelaide Cycling Club and the day’s main sponsor Focus Bikes paid prizes down to tenth place in Men’s A grade and the women’s category, as well as down to sixth place in B grade men’s (note: I came seventh!) It was a great morning of racing and a fitting warm up to the final stage of the Tour Down Under. I would like to extend a big thankyou to the passionate crew at Port Adelaide Cycling Club for their hospitality and well run event. As always, I look forward to coming back for more cyclocross soon.
For more wonderful photography of the day, Andy from Fame and Spear was shooting. Check out his work at http://fameandspear.tumblr.com/