Mt Buller. Yet another famous venue for mountain biking in Australia! Mt Buller has been on the mountain biking bandwagon for years and with the latest developments and announcements of future trail progression, Australia’s first IMBA Trail Center is sure to grow and host more racing over the coming decade. Playing host to the opening round of the Australian National Series was the infamous ‘International’ track, a track that has been raced at almost every race season in the past 10 years.
Upon arriving at Buller on Thursday evening, it was clear that we were in for a great weekend. Hot weather down the bottom of the track meant perfect riding weather at the top, bar the ridiculous amount of flies and hay fever inducing pollen! The first practice session of the weekend commenced on Friday morning and it was a great chance for riders to catch up, talk smack, check out new bikes and new teams, as well as being a clear indicator of who had been working hard in the off-season! After a solid day of practice out of the way with, the three representatives for the Kona Factory Team retired to their respective accommodation and fueled up for another day on the mountain.
Tegan Molloy was the sole female (U/19) rider for the team on the weekend and after a few days of practice she was looking extremely fast. Unfortunately in the late afternoon seeding session she went down hard and took a serious hit to the head, eventually returning to the pits thinking it was still lunchtime. With Tegan out and being treated by first-aid and unsure of her ability to race the next day it was left to the two boys to bring it home in seeding. Connor Fearon (Elite) and Dean Lucas (U/19) both represented Australia at World Championships last year and were eager to get their national campaign off to a good start. It wasn’t to be the way as the bad luck streak continued with a 2 inch nail from a boardwalk section impaling Dean’s tyre mid-run. Connor on the other hand had a satisfying run and seeded fourth behind Jack Moir (3rd), Chris Kovarik (2nd) and Sam Hill (1st).
After a late night washing and rebuilding bikes along with a fresh set of tyres, the Kona Supreme Operators were looking amazing for racing. With the smoke setting in from the Victorian bushfires, the team were trackside for their final practice session at 12.30pm. Come 5pm, we would have a bunch of new national series leaders and the Kona Factory Team hoped to be amongst them!
Proving the athlete she is, Tegan managed to recover enough to race and managed to take out the U19 Female category in a time that would have placed her 3rd in Elite Women, mere seconds behind Caroline Buchanan and Clair Buchar. After a good start to racing it was time for the hotly contested U19 Males to take to the track. After a flat in seeding, Dean was one of the first down the mountain and took the hot seat early, remaining in it until the last rider of the category where Thomas Crimmins stole it in a stunning time, resulting in Dean finishing second.
After a long and hot weekend everybody was keen for the race they had all come to see. Elite Men took to the track with some big names stacking out the field including past World Champions and regular World Cup riders. Kona rider Connor Fearon was the fourth last down the hill and after a brilliant run, crossed the line to take the hot seat with three riders to go. Only international vetrans Chris Kovark and Sam Hill managed to post faster times, with Hill taking the first win of the season.
Next weekend we return to Mt Buller, and to mix things up will take a bit of a different angle on the weekends race report. As usual, we couldn’t have done it without our sponsors. Kona, Mavic, Race Face, Maxxis, SRAM, Rockshox, Avid, Adidas Eyewear, Fox Head, GoPro, Evoc, Pedros, Straitline, NS Dynamics, Cane Creek, Revolution MTB Mag, Timothy Arch Photography and Torq.