Who can win the 2019 Australian XCM elite titles?

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The 2019 Australian Cross-Country Marathon (XCM) Championships had a date and location shift from Townsville to Redland Bay this year. Those riders who were targeting the race in May needed to cool their heels and wait until June, as Rats Cycling Club put up their hands to take on the title and build it into their popular Bayview Blast Marathon on 9th June.

Entries have just closed (don’t worry, you can enter on the day!) and the start lists for the elite races look impressive. There are well over 600 riders entered in total, with 25 elite men and 11 elite women keen to race for the win – or at least put their line in the sand.

Elite women

Holly Harris has the number one plate as the defending champion in the Bayview Blast in 2018. Anna Beck, 2018 National XCM Champ, is notably absent. But as a Brisbane local – you never know until the gun goes off at 8am on Sunday.

Holly is realistically the outright favourite, especially on the back of a dominant race at the 2019 Port to Port, racing in mixed with brother Michael.

That said, there’s no certain thing in marathon racing. Tory Thomas is also on the start sheet, and she almost took the title last year. Then there is Cristy Henderson who rode with some serious pace in the solo race at Port to Port, as well as Briony Mattocks who finished 2nd in the women’s teams at the same race, and Em Viotto and Imogen Smith who were 2nd and 3rd respectively in mixed teams. Courtney Sherwell finished 2nd at the XCM round in Bendigo, so could be in the mix for a podium, same for Kim Willocks.

Em Viotti – 3rd at the Convict 100

What comes into play will be the length of the race, with a race time that will likely be at least 5 hours. Does that give any of the above an advantage? Maybe, maybe not. Harris has raced that sort of distance at the 2018 XCM World Championships, as did Smith. Viotto is a very experienced road racer and won the Bendigo Golden Triangle Epic in a race at over 5 hours. While Tory Thomas hasn’t been in the same races – she is highly experienced and doesn’t turn up if she is not ready to race. This is a really hard race to pick, as while Holly seems to have the edge, there are half a dozen women who could end up on the podium. It should be a great race!

Elite men

Last year, Cam Ivory was the rider to stop Brendan Johnston winning 4 straight National XCM Titles. Ivory actually took quite a few marathon titles that year, as well as the national XCO and XCE titles. Right now, Ivory is racing in Europe collecting UCI points, and won’t be here to defend his title.

Cam Ivory – absent this year.

Johnston is clearly the rider to beat, and while he is probably the best marathon and stage racer of his generation – Cam has shown he isn’t unbeatable.

The man to beat?

One of the riders who could really give Johnston a run is his stage racing team mate Jon Odams. A singletrack ninja, Odams has proven at Reef to Reef and Port to Port to be a perfect match for Johnston, and at the Convict 100 too.

Coming north from Bendigo, Tasman and Russ Nankervis will also be out to make a mark. While Russ won in Bendigo, the two raced together at Port to Port but suffered some bad mechanicals. They wil both be hungry for success.

Tasman and Russell Nankervis take home the 2018 Hellfire Cup.

Reece Tucknott has been very close to Johnston in races like The Willo in March, and will no doubt be in a front selection with the above riders. But if the Nankervis brothers work together, and Odams and Johnston have an agreement – where would that leave Tucknott?

Of course, what about Alex Lack, and Callum Carson? Both have the pedigree for a strong race. A win? Maybe. A podium – certainly. Of course there are riders like Adrian Jackson who only races when he’s fit, and has the pedigree for a top 5 or a sneaky top 3. Michael England has been in the top 5 a few times at XCM Champs and could well do again, as could Michael Harris. Owen Gordon is a young rider but a top 10 seems possible for the nephew of endurance animal Craig Gordon.

You can find the complete start lists online.

There is about 100km of racing that will decide the positions. The 17km start loop leads into a short and sharp climb on gravel that’s a bit loose if you’re giving it the beans – same on the short descent on the backside of that. With just a few hundred metres of fireroad to then get the hole shot for singletrack, this race will reward a good start and a level head. With such a large percentage of singletrack, any mistakes in fuelling or hydration will be punished. And while the race won’t really top more than 1500m of climbing, there is a lot of time on the pedals. It will crown a deserving champion, and we will bring you the results on Sunday.

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