Australian marathon champion Craig Gordon will defend his national title in Coffs Harbour this Sunday in a national championship event sanctioned by Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA). Gordon won his title last September when he rode alone over the closing kilometres of the 100 km race to win by three minutes.
The 36 year-old from Wombarra in Wollongong then went on to shock the mountain bike fraternity by winning the World Championship 24 hour solo race held in Georgia in the US in October. Gordon beat six-time champion, Chris Eatough from the USA robbing him of what might otherwise have been his seventh consecutive title.
As a result of his exertion, Gordon spent three days in hospital and is now undecided if he will defend his world title this year. "I would love to have another go." he admitted. "It was hard financially and physically. I put myself in hospital but it was worth winning."
"I feel pretty fit," said Gordon. "It's hard to gauge how I'm going. I've only done a race in New Zealand and the Dirt Works."
This year Gordon will be able to test himself against a more experienced Canberra pair, Sean Lewis and James Williamson, out to improve on their third and sixth placing last year. Williamson has also proven his pedigree in long distance racing after winning the Australian 24 hour Solo Championship in Canberra last October. Victorian rider, Murray Spink is another favourite after taking out the inaugural Otways Odyssey Marathon in February.
New South Wales riders could also put up a challenge with two strong Port Macquarie riders, Jason English and Dennis Van Mill. Local favourite, Coffs Harbour's Daniel Alcock, is also a podium chance after placing second in last year's Coffs Marathon. Alcock is suffering a severe knee problem and is unsure if it will cope with over four hours of racing.
Another contender is Brisbane's Andrew Wilcher after winning the Coffs Marathon last year with a sprint to the finish line but with a national title up for grabs the pace will be on for the full 95 kilometres.
The women's field is wide open with defending national marathon champion, Tory Thomas racing overseas. One of the favourites for the event is Katrin Van Der Spiegel from Sydney currently ranked fifth in Australia. Local favourite is Vanessa McDonald who has returned to mountain bike racing after a seven year absence.
The elite women's race will get underway at 7:15 am while the elite men's race starts at 7:45 am. The first full distance marathon riders are expected across the line around 12:15 pm.
In addition to this race, a second event also bills itself as the Australian National Marathon Championship. The VAUDE Highland Fling, an independent event not sanctioned by MTBA, annually awards its own national titles as part of a marathon race geared toward both amateur and elite racers, is scheduled this year for November 11. In 2006, the event drew 1,100 racers.