Chris Jongewaard pinched his fourth win at the 100km Kona Odyssey mountain bike marathon in Forrest Victoria on Saturday, with Swiss Xterra off-road triathlete, Renata Bucher, conquering the women's race, amongst the throng of 1,800 riders.
Three distinct riding sectors made up the 100km course which scooted along the tracks, providing a heroic, tough mountain bike race through a range of wild landscapes in the Forrest and Otway ranges.
Jongewaard claimed his fourth win at the prestigious event in a time of four hours, 19 minutes and 19 seconds, just ahead of 2010 winner Adrian Jackson in four hours, 19 minutes and 40 seconds; with Paul van der Ploeg taking third place in four hours, 22 minutes and 14 seconds.
"I'm absolutely exhausted!" Jongewaard said. "It was just a tough day out there; with the new course, it's a bit different to previous years where there was a monster climb to begin with. But by the second climb today, you already had 60-70km in the legs so it really tightens the screws.
"I might have gone a bit too early being three minutes ahead at the first checkpoint, but my race plan was to kept it consistent and I was keen to take a bit more risk on the downhills going hard. I saw AJ (Jackson) coming towards the end and he looked fresh; I thought I was in trouble, but I just kept it consistent and I managed to hold on. It's a super sport! What more could you want!" Jongewaard said.
Jackson and van der Ploeg battled it out for second and third for most of the day, before Jackson gave it a crack to pull in Jongewaard.
"Paul and I spent the day together, and for most of it I was just sitting in his dust! I was feeling fresh on the hills, so I gave it to Paul at the end to try and bridge the gap up to Chris," Jackson said.
"AJ (Jackson) was just drilling it! I was doing it tough up the hills and we were both cramping in the legs, but he just drilled it at the top (King of Mountain) and I had nothing left towards the end," van der Ploeg said.
In the women's elite field, Bucher came here to Australia looking for the perfect race, and finished in five hours, 13 minutes and 35 seconds to take line honours just ahead of back to back 2011 and 2012 Kona Odyssey 100km winner, Peta Mullens who crossed in five hours, 14 minutes and 34 seconds. A hard finishing Rebecca Locke claimed third in five hours, 32 minutes and 57 seconds.
"Today was such a good day! My plan was not to come here and smash something. I was nervous because I didn't know the course as well as some of the others; but I'm lucky Jess (Douglas) took me out here the other day to give me a little bit of an idea of the tracks." Bucher said.
"Peta and I spent a lot of time together on the tracks until about the 80km mark. We worked so well together, swapping and changing the lead a number of times. I had to keep working hard and I felt good; everything was going well so I had to go!" said Bucher.
Mullens was nothing but praise for the new course and winner Bucher. "I'm just so happy. Even though I won the last two years, I'm happier with this performance today." Mullens said.
"Renata was so strong out there; but I wouldn't get off her wheel. It was only at the start of the 70km mark that I started to suffer, probably due to a lack of endurance, so had to ease back to make it to finish line. The new course is just great. That last loop is going to hurt people with all the little pinches that really grab the legs. But congratulations to everyone that finished today."
Starting and finishing at the Forrest Football Oval in Forrest Victoria, the monster mountain bike marathon passed through the oval four times including the finish line, creating an exciting event atmosphere for riders and spectators.
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