By Sharon Payne
Endurance racers converged at Mt. Stromlo Forest Park last weekend for the 24 Hour Australian Mountain Bike Championships After finishing runner-up in last year's Scott 24 Hour Mountain Bike Championships Andrew Bell wasn't going to let another victory slip through his hands, so he pushed hard to ensure he claimed the 2007 title. Bell was coming off a disappointing performance at the 24 hours of Adrenaline World Solo Championships in California last month where he was haunted by extremely hot conditions.
The 34 year-old from Melbourne didn't take to the lead until six hours into the race and he finished with a total of 29 laps. Port Macquarie's Jason English, finished second with 28 laps. English lost valuable time when he suffered a mechanical problem on the third lap, however he regained ground over the following 20 hours to finish a creditable second.
In the women's division German mountain bike rider Alexandra Kiendl only wanted an Australian beer after she crossed the line with more laps than any other female rider. The 34 year-old suffered from the cold when temperatures plummeted to a single degree throughout the night. "I had everything on I owned," she said. Kiendl completed 23 laps finishing, 48 minutes in front of nearest rival Justine Leahy (Coffs Harbour).
Sid Taberlay and Rowena Fry logged the fastest men's and women's laps in 31'38" and 37'11" respectively. Taberlay was also a member of the fastest overall team, with the squad completing an impressive 38 laps. Second team overall was Flight Centre on 37 laps followed by the Orbea Pro Team with 35 laps.
The 2007 event is the first to be held at the Stromlo Forest Park venue since bush fires devastated the region in 2003. The 2003 fires were the third of their kind to tear through the pine forests of Stromlo, with the first taking place in the December of 1951 and again 50 years on in December 2001. The Stromlo Forest Park, the original birthplace of the Scott 24 Hour, had been replaced in recent years by a venue in Canberra's Kowen Forest. The venue will play host to the Mountain Bike World Cup in 2008 and the World Championships in 2009, following the government's decision to re-develop the venue into a world-class multi-use, recreational sporting facility.
For full coverage of the 24 hour Australian National Championships, click here.