South Australian Chris Jongewaard led the 100km Anaconda Odyssey MTB Marathon from start to finish to win back-to-back titles in the marathon formerly called the Otway Odyssey, now the second biggest mountain bike race in Australia. Women's winner Katherine O'Shea successfully dominated the course and her competitors while leading for the majority of the race.
The start provided the first spectacle of the day with the queue of riders stretching hundreds of metres down the main road led by the seeded riders. A hot men's field including 2007 champion Murray Spink and Olympian Dan McConnell were put to the sword from the very first climb of the day. Similar to last year, the main group was splintered early and was whittled down by 10km with Jongewaard and McConnell taking the lead early.
Jongewaard managed a small break along the Red Carpet singletrack section and extended this into the Shotz Super Loop at the 67km mark. McConnell fought hard and managed to close the gap to under two minutes in the final 13km, but Jongewaard was too strong and smashed the course record to finish in four hours, 30 minutes and 46 seconds.
A tussle between Murray Spink and Adrian Jackson provided a close battle for third with Spink the victor, 10 minutes behind first place. The first four places ended up the same as in the 2008 race.
"This is a good lead-up for the year ahead and a good gauge of how I'm going," said Jongewaard after this win, obviously happy with his result before he goes to South Africa for the Cape Epic in March.
With a 30 minute head start on the rest of the field, the elite women had the rare experience of doing their own race without the hassle of hundreds of men to fight for a good spot on the track. Katherine O'Shea, in her first marathon race, said the other women went out hard in the first climb but like Jongewaard, she led from quite early in the race to win in five hours, 43 minutes and 18 seconds.
Claiming she wasn't feeling that great at the start and giving Jo Bennett credit for being really strong on the climbs, O'Shea powered ahead at the 40km when she said she got a lift from the top men when they started passing her even though they were just too quick to stay with.
Bennett and Emma Colson rode together for some time to in an attempt to peg her back but O'Shea extended her lead nevertheless. Colson rode to a strong second place in familiar surrounds as a local. Using this knowledge to make a break on Bennett, who was competing in her first Anaconda Odyssey, she finished strongly eight minutes behind O'Shea.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Anaconda Odyssey.