Stromlo Forest Park, on the western edge of Australia's Capital, Canberra, is a venue that's hosted many major moutain biking events over its relatively short history. Its history as a mountain bike venue begins in a large-scale disaster, being devastated by bushfires in 2003. After the devastation a plan was developed to build a world class venue. In the time since, it's been host to a UCI World Championship, a UCI World Cup downhill round along with many other local events. While it may lack some elevation compared with other venues that have hosted Downhill World Cups, the variety and depth of trails on the mountain see it being used heavily by all levels of mountain biker, from casual riders through to XC fiends and DH bros.
This weekend saw it host the second round of the MTBA National Gravity Enduro series. After Round 1 in Falls Creek, which saw Chris Panozzo edge out Ben Forbes and Ben Cory for the win in Elite Men, and Julia Boer take the win in Elite Women, would we see a similar set of results?
Jumps lie in wait in the early morning mist, until Stage 5 later in the day.
Kangaroos in the morning mist.
The early fog cleared by the start of racing and left a clear day.
There were around 160 riders on the start list, a great turnout. Racing format was a 5 stage race with approximately 40 minutes for each competitor to ride up the liaisons and then down each stage. The day initially started with a classic Canberra cold fog, but by the time the first rider started riding up the hill the weather started to warm up a little and the fog melted away.
Rider briefing, just before the last bit of fog blew away.
Many a hungry mountain biker was served here.
Many of the most technical tracks (Short and Sharp, Up the Anti) and also some of the most fun tracks (Luge, Skyline) were included in the course. With the liaisons including two tough climbs up Casuarina climb in the north-western part of Stromlo and two long rides around the southern ascent loop, making them within the allocated time was a challenge for a lot of riders.
One of many high speed berms in the Luge track.
The view is only temporary, the pain will be real down the stage.
Chris Panozzo rails the start of Stage 2.
Ben Morrison charging down a typical Stromlo descent
It was good to see Tim Eaton out having success on a trail bike.
Mark Ludenia taking any opportunity to style some jumps.
The inclusion of Up The Anti, a steep rocky section, made for some hard work and crashes.
Once the rocky part of Up The Anti was over though, it went on to a smoother high speed section.
A few magpies around the track in parts.
A local joining in on the spectating.
With plenty of rocks and jumps to hit, flat tyres were a common theme in the race today.
A view back over the south western suburbs of Canberra.
The end of a steep liaison stage up Casurina for both Stage 3 and 4, but keeping it positive.
The bridge used for Stage 1 and 5, shared between many tracks within the park.
In the Junior Men's category, a big crash for Round 1 winner Harrison Dobrowolski required him to sit out for around a minute and a half gathering his thoughts and probably wondering how he came out without a broken bone. Even with even with 1st and 2nd stage results afterwards, Sam Walsh, who was riding on edge and fast all day, snatched the win in the category. What Sam may lack in size he certainly makes up for in speed, and took the win by 41 seconds over Cameron Cubit in second place.
Harrison Dobrowolski suffered a big crash on Stage 1 today, unable to repeat his win in Round 1 with a 5th.
Sam Walsh, Junior Men's winner, taking the high line through this berm.
The Elite Women's race saw a familiar lineup from Stage 1 and a couple of new faces.
Round 1 winner Julia Boer unfortunately suffered a DNF result ruling her out of the pordium. Claire Whiteman, in her first race in the series so far snatched a couple of important stage wins on stage 3 and 4, gaining enough time to take the overall win by 38 seconds from Jaclyn Schapel in second place. Jaclyn had a good race, with a stage win on stage 2 and consistent times all day show that she has the potential to score important wins in the rest of the series. Sian A'Hern, racing some of her home tracks scored important stage wins in stage 1 and 5, arguably the most "downhill" of the stages, unfortunately not a great result on Stages 3 and 4 but taking 3rd place overall by less than a second margin over Ebony Tanzen in 4th.
Sian A'Hern over the last jump of Triple Treat. A tough day in the saddle to take third.
Jaclyn Schapel heads down Stage 5, going onto take 2nd place in Elite Women.
Claire Whiteman, a successful day on the bike to take the Elite Women's win.
Elite Women's Podium
Elite Women's Results
1 - Claire Whiteman 26:24.96 overall
2 - Jaclyn Schapel 27:03.27 (+0:38.31)
3 - Sian A'Hern 29:12.60 (+2:47.64)
In the Elite Men's category, injuries, mechanicals and slowdowns were the order of the day. Chris Panozzo looked super fast all day, only slowing down on Stage 1 in the Luge sections when a couple of local Sunday riders somehow found their way onto the track ahead of him leading to a heated discussion that shouldn't need to happen on a race day. David Ludenia suffered a decent crash that still allowed him to finish with injury but requiring stitches after the race. Anthony Elliot had a stage win on Stage 2, however had to retire with major mechanicals on his Pivot.
But overall it was Dylan Cooper, Kaine Cannan and Chris Panozzo battling it out for the top spot. Dylan Cooper had two stage wins and very narrowly missed out on the overall win. Kaine Cannan looked consistently fast and slotted into third place overall not far behind, with Chris taking the overall win and his second win of the series.
Ryan Walsch flatted a rear tyre almost instantly on a harsh landing.
But he didn't let that worry him, sending the rest of the course and into 7th place.
David Ludenia with a 6th place, crashing in Stage 5 and requiring stitches after finishing the race.
Tim Eaton down Stage 5, coming in 5th for the day.
Thomas Crimmins, on his way down Stage 5 to take 4th place.
Kaine Cannan looked fast all day.
Kaine making the tech gnar look easy.
Dylan Cooper narrowly missed out on first place by less than 2 seconds overall.
Dylan Cooper taking the technical rock sections of Short and Sharp without fuss.
Plenty of sharp and slick rock to keep Chris on his toes.
Having a chat post-race
Chris looks over the result display.
Elite Men's Podium
Elite Men's Results1 - Chris Panozzo
22:30.99 overall2 - Dylan Cooper
22:32.78 (+0:01.79)3 - Kaine Cannan
22:42.83 (+0:11.84)Full Results available here