South Australian and Olympic hopeful Chris Jongewaard and American-based New Zealander Jennifer Smith led their respective races at the 100km Lowan Otway Odyssey MTB Marathon from start to finish last weekend.
In the men's race, a strong field including 2004 Olympian Sid Taberlay, 24 hours of Adrenalin solo world champion Tinker Juarez, defending champion Murray Spink and Australian marathon champion Dan McConnell were put to the sword from the very first climb of the day.
Jongewaard attacked up the steep Busty Road climb, establishing a one minute lead by the top - only 7km in. The main group was splintered early and was whittled down to as few racers as six by 10km, although it regrouped somewhat on the descent and crossing of Wild Dog Creek. Up the longest stretch of climbing for the day and Jongewaard extended his lead to three minutes by the time the race reached the Mount Sabine turnoff with 25km covered. Taberlay, sensing the danger Jongewaard presented, also broke away and rode alone in second place from thereon.
By the time the technical sections began at the 37km mark, Jongewaard had a four minute lead on Taberlay and a seven minute lead on the main group. Juarez had dropped off the back and was in eighth place nine minutes down. The day's major controversy came in a linking section where the top seven riders excepting Jongewaard were sent the wrong way by course vandals, thereby riding an extra 2.3km. The sabotage wasn't discovered until after Taberlay had already ridden back to town and he pulled out at 50km. For the main bunch the only real effect was to increase Jongewaard's lead, which had now swelled to approximately 12 minutes before the start of 40km of technical riding.
Jongewaard finished in a scorching 5:06:31, especially considering this year's difficult, wet conditions making some of the climbs unrideable in places.
In the women's race, Smith, out in Australia from her base in the US and training for March's Cape Epic in South Africa, led from start to finish, like Jonegwaard. The main threat throughout the course of the day came from Emma Colson, who held the margin at two minutes through to Forrest at 65km. However in the technical and challenging singletrack section from 65km to 87km, Smith put a further seven minute gap in to Colson to extend her lead to an unassailable nine minutes going into the final 13km loop before finishing in six hours and 25 minutes.
See full coverage of the Otway Odyssey.