Boom! Right on cue the rains that were promised, turned up and delivered. From pre dawn to about an hour before the first race, the heavens fell. Turning what was a bone dry track yesterday afternoon into a slippery sliding fest today.

The Womens Elites race started off fast with Holly Harris leading before the first major pinch caught everyone undone anyway. The mornings downpour turning the clay surface of the steep fire road into mush and riders frantically countered, beginning to run. Harris entered the first lot of single track with Bec Henderson hot on her tail the two entering the long climb along with Peta Mullens, Tory Thomas and new comer Kathyrn McInerney in tow.

The move was made and the race divided by the time Henderson reappeared at the Rock Garden. The slippery surface causing much carnage amongst the senior ranks, with the race leader going down on the opening lap. More falls followed as the trail surface rushed to dry. 

Oddities began though, with one junior breaking her cleat, ditching her shoe and subsequently riding around with just her sock on instead. As the race entered the second lap Tory Thomas edged ahead with Mullens and McInerney quickly struggling to stay on whilst Holly Harris began to set herself up comfortably in second place. The status quo changed little over the coming laps as Bec Henderson proceeded to decimate the field by putting a minute deficit into the field per a lap. Winning with a margin of three minutes twenty over Holly Harris who marched into second. Behind the race heated up in the dying laps as Thomas fell back to the final assault of Mullens and McInerney. The later two neck and neck in an all out sprint where McInerney edged ahead to claim third.

The junior fields were much more divided with Katherine Hosking and Megan Williams throwing down the gauntlet to win the U19’s and U23’s respectively with matching seven minute leads.

The rain stopped but the humidity remained with sweat dripping away like water as the Elite, U23’s and Junior Men headed to the start line. Sebastian Jayne got the hole shot leading into the first climb, but just like the women before them they too could not crest the hill. The climb began and the pack almost immediately began to fracture.

Cam Ivory led the charge with a hard pacing Dan McConnell in arrears. In the hunt too were Kyle Ward, Brendan ‘Trekky’ Johnston, Mark ’Tupac’ Tupalski and Russ Nankervis closing out the top five. Just behind Nankervis’s younger brother Tasman was in hot pursuit flying to the lead of the U23’s and pushing into 6th spot in the Elite field. Ben Bradley and not far behind Reece Tucknott fought to stay on.

The rock garden was the place to be Sunday, the atmosphere electric and absolutely chaotic at its best. XCO is wonderful!

A pack of lively WA juniors lead the charge in spectating calls. They were dressed down in their children’s party costumes, screaming out the lyrics to “Advance Australia fair” and cheering on their new favourite rider” Tupac” with vigor. WhIlst the rest of the assembled crowd waited with baited breath to see where the next unfortunate moment would come from.

U19’s has one of the largest fields of competitors, second only to the U17’s, but from these ranks come the future of XCO. Cam Wright took the National Championship with some strong moves from the outset to stay just ahead of Kian Lerch- MacKinnon in second, with Sam Fox in third.

Lap four the status quo that had held from the outset suddenly broke, Up front the attack came, with McConnell powering up the diesel, putting a good twenty seconds on Cam Ivory in the climb. Behind walls were found and hit head on, first to go was Kyle Ward, with a couple of crashes under his belt, he drifted back past Trekky. Soon enough so too did Trekky legs falter and the chattering pace of Tupac moved through the field into third.

The blistering early pace of Tasman Nankervis made for a steady lead and rhythm that held throughout the U23's race. A lead and win that almost came undone as a fast approaching Reece Tucknott was mistaken for a resurgent Trekky. But win U23's Nankervis did by as little as 0.07 with a 'calculated' sprint finish. Reece Tucknott sliding over the line into second with Ben Bradley in third.

Just a lap to go in Elites and Cam Ivory was trying desperately to close the gap, but seven laps of long climbs to the top had done their damage. No matter how much sweat poured forth the gap wasn’t closing. At long last, McConnell came into view of the finishing straight claiming the national title, carrying the green and gold overseas once again. Tupac retained his beat, skids aside riding solidly into third. A fine result from nearly twelve months away from the sharp end of XCO racing. Behind a pounding effort from Trekky pushed his way into fourth whilst Adrian Jackson rode solidly into fifth, strong efforts from the marathon stars who are more used to just a few more kilometers.

Words and Photos: Robert Conroy