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Video & Race Report: Chaos for 350 Riders in Australia's Only Mass Start Snow Race

Oct 15, 2019
by Nathan Fenton  
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A 350 rider mass start on snow is not something you expect in the southern Hemisphere. Prepare to change your expectations - this is McKayos, Australia's only mass-start snow enduro.

For the unindoctrinated, Australia has five major snow resorts - each at around 1,800 m (6,000 ft) above sea level. In Victoria you will find Falls Creek - one of the largest and one that has fully embraced mountain biking. In summer their MTB park features 40km+ of super flowy trails, built-in signature World Trail style by Glen Jacobs' crew.

Rider falls on the epic McKayos snow start at Falls Creek

With Australia emerging from winter, the first weekend in October marks the close of the local ski season. Falls Creek celebrates this in the most chaotic way possible, putting hundreds of riders on the slopes for an all-in Snow-Dirt-Road Enduro covering 15km and 1,100m total descent.

The name McKayos might seem confusing (it’s a mix of Mt McKay with a bit of Chaos – get it?) but the ethos is simple. Mix world-class riders with weekend warriors and thrill-seekers alike in a mass snow-start of epic proportions.

350 riders prepare for the mass start at McKayos
350 riders, 100 more than 2018, meant a sellout for the first time in McKayos' 5 year history.

Mass start chaos at McKayos Falls Creek 2019
Chris Panozzo and Ben McIlroy have one of the closest friendships and also one of the fiercest rivalries in this event.
Course walk pre mass start - McKayos 2019
A course check was needed this time around, riders planning strategies around whether to go snow or dirt

Paul Van Der Ploeg at McKayos
Paul Van Der Ploeg was back in his local mountains to contest for the top prize once more.

In the elite starter list, World Cup rider Chris Panozzo and EWS beast Ben McIlroy were back to continue a running battle for a podium placing. 2013 XC World Champ Paul Van Der Ploeg was back also, winner of the first two McKayos events but absent ever since.

Racing was fierce with Matt Ryan and Geoff Vietz absolute bullets out of the blocks as a trail of carnage built in their wake. Panozzo and McIlroy soon took their lead to set up the tightest finish yet in a final sprint for the line.

Victory went to Panozzo, denying McIlroy a third straight win by just 1 second. Third place brought another thriller as Jason Capenecas chased Junior dynamo, Jonah Cosgriff to the line but ultimately fell 1 second short also to take elite 3rd place but 4th overall behind Cosgriff.

In the female elites, Goele Schmitz backed up her 2018 win to finish ahead of Bec Feltrin once more (Jo Wilkie finishing third). The big story was first time teenager, Lia Ladbrook, who stunned them all to finish fastest female a full 20 seconds faster via the under 16’s category.

With McKayos 2019 done and dusted, all eyes turn to November 22 when 800+ will turn up to the Falls Creek MTB Park season opening – Ignition MTB Festival.

Full Results - https://www.mckayos.com.au

McKayos 2019 Startline chaos
The 2019 course was hit hard by a rapidly melting snowpack. The usually top to bottom snow deck was replaced with huge patches of dirt and buck-ready bumps for those coming in too rigid. (pic: Nathan Fenton).

Mass start chaos at McKayos Falls Creek 2019
Matt Ryan burst out of the blocks, putting a big distance between himself and the rest of the field.

Chris Panozzo and Ben McIlroy were in fast pursuit early on, using local knowledge and a good deal of experience racing on snow.

Mass start chaos at McKayos Falls Creek 2019
Van Der Ploeg battled to get through the pack further back, eventually taking what seemed like a quarter of the field as the course turned uphill and the XC master turned it on.

Mass start chaos at McKayos Falls Creek 2019
The pack spread quickly under the full magnitude of a field this size taking off in a single start.

McKayos Start Chaos
Riding on snow is not a skill most Aussie riders hold, especially in softening spring conditions.
McKayos Start Chaos
Rubber side down not always the easiest in this field.

Single Track ride- McKayos 2019
Racing turned to Falls Creek's singletrack network once below the snowline. Trails like Packhorse combined with steep gravel riding tracks for a total 1,100m (3,600 ft) descent.


Stair drop in McKayos Falls Creek
The alpine village forms the spectators portion of the course, highlighted with a 3 flight stair bomb. (pic: Jiri Cech)
Stair drop in McKayos Falls Creek
Hundreds of spectators turn out to cheer in Slalom Plaza in the main hub of the alpine village. (pic: Jiri Cech)

Finish line euphoria in McKayos 2019
Battle stories posted after Xena Pahina and Jo Prothero finish their first McKayos.
Thirsty after a big race at McKayos
Never too early to celebrate after an epic like this.

Chris Panozzo after winning McKayos 2019
Winner winner, chicken dinner - Chris Panozzo all smiles after scoring his first McKayos win from 5 starts .

Chris Panozzo Jonah Cosgriff and Lia Ladbrook podium winners in Mckayos 2019
Fastest finishers - Mens: Chris Panozzo // Juniors: Johan Cosgriff // Womens: Lia Ladbrook.

Elite Mens Podium - Chris Panozzo Ben McIlroy and Jason Capenecas
Elite Podium Mens: Ben McIlroy, Chris Panozzo & Jason Capenecas
Elite Womens Podium - Goele Schmitz Bec Feltrin and Jo Wilke
Elite Podium Womens: Jo Wilkie, Goele Schmitz and Bec Feltrin



2 Comments

  • 2 0
 Epic race in Aus! Friday fail fodder for sure in the video
  • 2 0
 Such a sick day!

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