The Australian Nationals season. Reflection. Lessons learned and the secrets behind our successes.
The Australian National calendar is a crowded affair. With Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA) overlooking a National Series for Downhill, Cross-Country, Cross-Country Marathon, Gravity Enduro and Cyclocross, there are also National Championships for all those events and 24hr Solo.
Here at AMB we did our best to get to as many of the National Downhill and Cross-Country races as possible this past summer, including the Championship events. Here’s what we saw.
Words: Mike Blewitt Photos: Mike Blewitt and Nick Waygood
We’re world leaders in downhill
Ok, we didn’t come home with any Downhill World Titles in September at the World Championships in Cairns. But take a look at the riders who won the first two National Rounds at Awaba and Coffs Harbour and the National Championships in Bright. The tops steps of the podiums in the National Series and the National Championships wouldn’t look out of place at a number of international events.
In Cairns, Australia had 3 men in the top 5 and 2 women in the top 5. For the size of our country we really punch above our weight. If you look to the Junior Men’s scene there is a hungry generation coming through. With Kye A’Hern just landing a factory ride with Canyon Factory Racing there is also a clear sign that dedication and hard work will pay off. Kye’s time on race day not only won him the Junior Men’s Downhill title, but it placed him well up the ranks in Elite men. Australia’s dominance in World Cup Downhill doesn’t look like it is about to fade.
Our sport is in the hands of our clubs
What might be easy to miss from outside of the National Series and the National Championships, is the role that local mountain bike clubs play. While MTBA oversee the series and championships, the clubs host and run the events. I spoke to MTBA’s Technical Delegate Bob Morris about how they work with the clubs to prepare for and run an event.
“It depends on the capacity of the clubs, we try and fill in the gaps.” Morris plays a role a traditional technical delegate, looking at course safety and layout, and in some instances needs to make suggestions. “In Armidale for the XCE, I suggested we reverse the route. This meant ramps up stairs for some extra challenge, but it also meant the riders had an uphill sprint finish which was a lot safer.”
But in Armidale for the XCO National Championships, the New England Mountain Bike Club (NEMTB) ran most of the show. After two national rounds in 2017, and the NSW State Championship, NEMTB had worked with MTBA via Morris on course design and feedzones, so for the event “my role was to make sure it all looked right! They had done all the work, I just made some suggestions on behalf of MTBA.”
It is fitting that the Championships were the pre-eminent event, and Morris puts much of that down to how invested the members of NEMTB are in racing. They have club members involved in event organisation at just about any national level cross-country event in the country. And seeing how other clubs and events operate gives them a broad understanding of different ways they can operate. “They get to see how things work, and what doesn’t, and adjust accordingly,” states Morris. So while the National Series is not just a great step for helping riders develop, it helps clubs develop too, and assist with the growth of mountain biking in Australia.