Photos: Dave Acree

The 2018 Townsville MTB Festival has begun! While the Northern Queensland School's Championships helped burn up plenty of endless teenage energy on Friday, Saturday came around and most of the teens still seemed to have plenty of zing in the legs for the U15 and U17 riders contesting their races at the Marathon Championships.

Saturday was a frenzy of energy with the U15 and U17 riders taking off on one or two laps of the 17km course in Townsville. There was also a half-marathon option as an open category for men and women.

The U15 and U17 riders tore around the course, many of them suffering flats later in the course where the rocks were bigger and when fatigue started to kick in.

Results are online

Sunday was the big one, with Elite and Masters titles on the line. But there was drama well before the race started. Jason English and Peter Lister had their bikes stolen from locked roof racks on Saturday, and only located them late on Saturday evening with help from the mountain bike community. It was a long night ahead of repairing damage to the bikes, for Jason especially.

The course in Townsville was fun, and challenging. With 17km of almost pure singletrack, the race would suit a fast start and preserving your position as the chances to pass were minimal. With a long climb soon after the start, the course wrapped around the back of the hill, ending with a great view across to Magnetic Island - if you got a chance to look up! But it was the second half of the course on older, hand-built trails where many of the challenges lay, with more loose and sharp rock. This was the site of plenty of punctures.

The Elite men were off first, and the big question was: would Brendan Johnston win a 4th title? In the end it was Jon Odams who lead the race for 2 laps, before fading, crashing, and "putting it in reverse." But Tasman Nankervis was still in the mix, and it wasn't until entering the 5th lap that Johnston and Ivory (who is XCO and XCE National Champion) were clear - and locked wheel to wheel.

Ivory said he made a mock attack, as he really had nothing to back it up, and it worked and he edged away from Johnston. Capitalising on the gap he rode to a solo victory, adding a 3rd national title to his 2018 season. Johnston crossed in 2nd with Nankervis 3rd, Michael England 4th and Callum Carson in 5th.

The elite women's race was just as exciting. While Holly Harris was a clear leader for the first and second laps, she flatted on the 3rd lap, losing about 10 minutes. Tory Thomas was now in the lead with Anna Beck right behind her. Harris went back out, but had a lot of time to make up. What would we see at the end of their final lap?
At 2km to go Tory Thomas came motoring into the Tech/Feed zone, with Anna Beck 50m back. Beck shut the gap down on the steep road climb at 1km to go, and won the national title! Harris was a few minutes back, after riding a lap of barely one hour, and finishing about 2:30 down. Imogen Smith came in 4th with Kim Willocks in 5th.

In the Masters and Expert races there were no big surprises. Peter Lister was a favourite in Masters 3 but with a frame left broken after his bike was stolen and recovered, he couldn't continue. Meaghan Stanton won the women's Masters 3, a category she has dominated. Similarly, David Penhaligan won Masters 2 men's, a category he has been almost completely dominant in. Darren Smith won Masters 4 - on a hardtail! Which is impressive if you've ridden at Douglas and need to consider riding fast there for 4 hours.

Full results from Sunday are online. 

Townsville Rockwheelers put a great event on, and it looks like the Marathon Championships will go all the way north to Townsville again in 2019. We'll be interested to see whether the race heads back to Pallarenda as in 2017, or whether along with MTBA a true marathon course can be created to lure Australia's population from 3000km to the south.