Andrew Lloyd, runner up in last year’s 24 Hour Solo Mountain Bike World Championship, won the SHIMANO Mountain Bike Grand Prix endurance race on Saturday at Awaba MTB Park near Newcastle. Lloyd completed an impressive 13 laps in just over seven hours and won against a strong Elite Men’s field and also took out the line honours of the overall race win. Newcomer Kirby Knowles from Boolaroo claimed the women’s title. In the four competition the locals challenged the Canadian National Marathon Champion Cory Wallace. After a tight race, Wallace took out the win just three minutes ahead of Erina’s Bradley Jolliffe and Tristan Gribble from Merewether. The hotly contested female category saw Lana Moy from Collaroy dominate the field, winning ahead of Susanna Fasold and Leah Childs.
The local club Hunter MTB Alliance hosted the first round of this year’s SHIMANO MTB Grand Prix endurance racing series on their trail network at Awaba MTB Park on Saturday. A field of 300 riders wasn’t scared off by the rain in the event lead up and organisers Rocky Trail Entertainment put on a 10 km racing circuit, which included some reverse trail configurations. “It’s all about keeping it interesting and fun for our riders”, explained race director Martin Wisata ahead of the race start. “We love racing at Awaba and together with the local club we tried to mix it up a bit this year. A lot of regular Rocky Trail racers are at the start today and quite a few new faces, which is very exciting.”
The SHIMANO MTB GP series is the original 4+7 hour series with five events in NSW and ACT and it has been growing in popularity, now in its sixth year. Andrew Lloyd has been one of the regulars over the past three years. In 2012 the talented endurance racer from Newcastle won the SHIMANO MTB Grand Prix Series overall and at the season opener at Awaba he didn’t disappoint. Right from the start he settled into a fast pace, even riding away from the four hour solo competitors.
“This is the most number of laps I’ve ever raced in seven hours”, said an exhilarated Andrew Lloyd crossing the line after 13 laps in 7:03:43 adding that the reverse course played with his mind at times. “After about 5 hours I really started to feel it – the climbs were long, not steep, but they definitely drained your legs. I got nervous with one or two hours to go that Callum would catch me.” Callum McNamara from Canberra was the only other solo racer who completed 13 laps and finished with a gap of about 15 minutes behind Lloyd. The remaining top five podium was dominated by local endurance racing aces with Max Richardson from Wamberal taking out third, the 2013 Series Champion Grant Webster from Tea Gardens placing fourth and Gosford’s Car Donnellan coming in fifth.
The only woman competing in the seven hour race was Kirby Knowles from Boolaroo, completing six laps in 6:20:57. “Kirby raced very strongly”, said Event Director Juliane Wisata. “She’ll be one to watch throughout the series.”
Locals put up a fight in GP4 Hour
More than a third of the entire racing field competed in the various four hour solo age categories. “These have been some of the most hotly contested categories since the series’ inception all those years ago”, said Juliane Wisata. “The seven hour race is often compared to a marathon distance and the four hour is a fast paced and shorter race. Mind you, our elite men rode over 80km in four hours, so it’s as hard a race as you want it to be – or as tough as your competitors dictate it for you.”
She added that plenty of talent was coming through the ranks with eleven junior racers were also at the four-hour start. The local club rider Bryan Dunkin winning with seven laps in 4:01:13 and 20 minutes ahead of his closest competitor Tom Daniher from Braidwood and a lap ahead of Brady Hayes from Newcastle.
In the Elite Men’s field the pro-mountain biker Cory Wallace from Canada, who is currently training on the Central Coast in preparation for the UCI World Cup in Cairns, challenged the local racers at Awaba, finishing ahead of Bradley Jolliffe and Tristan Gribble. “The terrains here are a great training ground for me – the Central Coast has become like my second home over the past year. This is a completely different course to what I’m used to back home, but I like the variety”, Wallace said and added that he was impressed with the fast pace by his fellow racers. “The pace Lloydy put on right from the start was insane. He’s so smooth in the technical sections too.”
Furthermore, round 2 of the SHIMANO MTB Grand Prix Series will take its racers to the unique trails at the James Estate Winery in the Upper Hunter Valley in Baerami near Muswellbrook on the 26 April, right in the middle of the ANZAC Day long weekend. “It’s going to be a great weekend out for our riders. We can camp on-site at the winery or there are great accommodation options nearby. There are so many activities on offer as well – not to forget tasting all those delicious James Estate Wines”, concluded Juliane Wisata.
For detailed results and event information, visit www.rockytrailentertainment.com Photos : Outer Image Collective