After a week of wild and damaging weather, and reports of the course being flooded and pumped dry only yesterday morning we knew it was going to be a wet one on our traditionally dry corner of Vic park. With puddles well over boot height the enthusiastic and now quite experienced set-up crew all added their artistic flair to their particular segments of the course, with a result that turned out somewhat brutal. Nevertheless, the sun came out, three great food vendors rolled up (thanks Cafe2U Mild End, Veggie Velo and Cupcakes Please) and a record field signed on for a chance to splash about in the magic forest.
Want to see what the course was like? Try this video:
We kicked off the morning with a record number of Little Crossers splashing through gravelly puddles - 17 kids in all!
In the Open/MTB mens' race Tom Bamman returned to the Open class and had a clear victory over Simon Chapman, and crowd favourite Loz Shaw. Sandra Chambers, Jeni Watson and Tessa Manning lined up as the only three women in Open - but Tessa and Watson both DNFed leaving Sandra clear for a win.
The field of A-Grade Women, B-Grade Men and Combined C-grade was the biggest we have had circulate on the course at once and kept the timekeepers busy! In C-Grade Darryl Smith cruised to victory and earned himself a re-grading to B-Grade, while behind him there was an epic tussle between with Kellie Hards finding herself the meat in a Bob Sandwich as Robert Cannon and Robert Rau gave their all, and in Rau's case, lost a shoe in a puddle. It was a sprint finish for 2nd overall, Cannon besting Rau and Hards. For second and third women Tessa Manning bounced back from her DNF in Open opting for a restart in C-Grade, just a little too good for Kate Berry. The trashtalking in C-grade will continue for another few weeks between Kara Turner and Virginia Riches with the two only separated by 8 seconds at the finish.
In the hectic B-Grade mens' start Port Adelaide CC junior Nick Anderson had the holeshot to the muddly corners with Chris Leung, Adam Tarzia, Tom Cree, Craig Nates, Matt West and youngest in the field Zack Gilmore leading the charge at the end of Lap 1. Distaster struck Anderson in lap 3, burping a tyre a long way from his spares while Tarzia crashed and was unable to continue with a shoulder injury. Nates lead the bunch over at the bell but must have had a race incident, losing 26 seconds on the last lap while West left his best lap till last and took the win over Leung and Cree in a sprint finish, with Gilmore only 8secs behind.
In the A-Grade womens Australian MTB star Terri Rhodes fresh from her overseas duties saddled up for her first cross race joining a strong womens field that included Jackie Schapel, Carly Light, Gemma Kernich, Carla Franson, Margaret Shanafield and Sarah Allen, with Aurelia Strozik and Nelli Noakes joining the fray for the first time. Franson, Rhodes, Schapel and Light had a sizzling start leaving Kernich bogged early. Rhodes and Schapel gapped the field very early on, having a clear 25sec after the first lap on the chasing Kernich, Light and Franson. Light suffered a puncture and a very long run back to the pits for a borrowed wheel and Kernich decided to taste the onion weed in the forest, while Rhodes and Schapel continued their charge with Schapel trailing by no more than 15secs for the majoriy of the race making Rhodes work very hard for the win over Shapel with Kernich finishing a minute down. Franson for 4th, and Sarah Allen suprising herself for fifth.
The A-Grade Mens race was a cracker with Olympian Alex Edmondson joining the field on a borrowed bike and Cameron Bayly and Ollie Klein lining up for a race and expected to put in a good showing with seasoned competitors Jade Lean, Neil Ross, Mark Chadwick, Chris Luxton and Aron Huysmans out to prove experience counts for something.
Jade Lean was the evil mastermind behind the deep puddles surrounding the dirt piles section fo the course, and despite setting that section of the course up himself was the first person to get caught out in that section early, spearing himself over the bars in the deepest trench to take a decent swim. Perhaps the near-drowning did him good as despite being covered head to toe in slick mud he remounted to not only rejoin the lead bunch of Bayly, Edmondson, Huysmans, Ross and Chadwick but lead for every lap bar the first, putting in the fastest lap of the day on Lap 4 to get a 30 sec break over Bayly and Luxton. Lean soloed in for the most convincing win of the season; today he made it look easy after a slow start to the season due to injury. Bayly got close to Series Leader Luxton on the last lap but Luxton isn't the kind of guy you can outfox or outsprint, with Luxton having a few seconds in hand at the finish for second, Bayly third. Muddy Mark Chadwick finished 1:41 down for 4th, Huysmans 5th.
Again too many people to thank by name, but special thanks to sole commissaire Will Lyons, timekeepers Paula Hollamby and Lillie Honan and everyone that turned up at 7:30am this morning to set-up! We really do appreciate everyone hanging around to chip in and help pack up, when it come to rolling up several thousand metres of course tape and collecting 200 stakes many hands do make light work.