Highs and lows at Aussie nationals

February 1, 2009

Last weekend the TORQ team was in Canberra for the Australian National Championships. Luckily, our much-loved TORQ Campervan survived the long (dull!) journey up the Hume Highway in very stormy conditions, and by the end of the week the entire team (riders, staff, friends and family) had settled in to our leafy apartment accommodation and were looking forward to a big weekend of racing.

The women's cross country

The women's race was the first of the elite races on Sunday, with Tory Thomas, Jo Wall and Katherine O'Shea flying the Torq colours. They all seemed to get a great start, however after lap one, they were enjoying different successes: Jo was on fire, sitting in third wheel; Tory was a bit off the pace but looking comfortable just a little behind; and Katherine was having a shocker. In brilliant form and hoping for a win, Katherine had suffered a mechanical early in the lap, and was forced to run two kilometers to the tech zone, where she was consoled by the TORQ crew and handed a new wheel by DC.

Jo was riding great, and soon caught the leaders and fought it out for the lead with Rowena Fry. They rode head-to-head for most of the race, battling it out in the singletrack until Jo suffered a small mishap with a pine tree (Yep - despite the noticeable lack of forest at Stromlo Forest, Jo managed to find a tree big enough to make her crash). Rowena seized the opportunity and rode hard to the finish and grabbed herself the win, with Jo chasing her and grabbing the silver medal while also achieving her best result of her career.

The men's cross country

In the men's field, Torq had several riders: Dan McConnell and Jimmy Maebus in the elite category, and Cal Britten, Paul Weymouth and myself in the U23 category. Elite and U23 raced together, and there were over 60 starters, which is pretty massive for an Australian cross country race.

Even though the start climb had been lengthened since the World Cup, the start was hectic leading in to the first section of singletrack as anticipated. Chris Jongewaard led from the gun, gapping the field and making the task of racing at Stromlo look easy. Dan finished strongly in fourth place, and Cal also had a solid day placing fourth in the U23. Paul had a shocker, bailing out early after a big crash down the Hammer Head, and for me, it was a really tough and very disappointing day.

Leading up to Nationals, I was feeling really happy with my form and confident that I'd have a good race, especially as I'd raced well on the same course in the World Cup race in August last year. I knew I was riding faster than I ever have, so I really was hoping for a ripper race where I could just smash it the whole time and achieve a good result. I was expecting the race of my life, but ended up suffering the biggest disappointment of my career. As I rolled across the finish line, I felt relieved that my horrible race was over, but was so disappointed that I'd had such a shocker of a race, for no apparent reason. I kept thinking that all my hard training had been a waste of time.

Now, after I've had time to reflect, I'm still disappointed, but I guess 'Shockers' are just part of racing. I suppose I've accepted that sometimes you have a bad day where, for no obvious reason, nothing goes right. I'm sure I'll be more consistent as I gain race experience over the years to come, and learn how to deal with the different situations, but it's still frustrating that I'm getting to know what works for me by using the big races as experiments and having some races (like last weekend) not go to plan.


After a post-race BBQ at our accommodation, and the 'Mega Shake Challenge' (where Paul Weymouth proved rather graphically that it is NOT possible for a cross country athlete to consume four GIANT milkshakes), the TORQ team rolled up to dusty Mount Stromlo for another day of racing in the hot summer sun.

In the women's race it was very close racing from the gun, with Rowena and Katherine proving too strong for the rest of the field. After a breakaway in the final few laps, they fought hard and battled it out for line honours in a sprint finish, with Rowena just hanging on to the lead at the finish line.

In the men's race Chris Jongewaard proved too strong again, riding a solo race from start to finish. The action was happening further back in the field, with Dan McConnell and local Canberra rider Dylan Cooper putting on a spectacular race for second place. Dan ended up third.

I didn't podium, but I did get some good cheers as I ran my across the finish line a few minutes behind the leaders. I'd had an eventful race, rolling my tyre off the rim during the last lap - another lesson learned the hard way, and probably an appropriate end to my weekend of racing!

Another weekend, another race This weekend, TORQ is heading to Mount Buller to race round 4 of the Australian MTBA National Series. It's going to be a tough race - I've just ridden a lap of the course, and I'd describe it as "a battle for momentum"… should be interesting!

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for our next adventure,

Luke Fetch

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