Giant team rider Lachlan Norris defied pundits’ predictions to win the Kona Odyssey Mountain Bike Marathon today, maintaining an unassailable lead after passing race favourite, Team Milka/Superior’s Chris Jongewaard, following the 25km mark.
Norris, a rider who tackles both mountain and road disciplines at the elite level , took advantage of Jongewaard suffering a flat tyre early on, flashing past as last year’s champion remounted to engage the chase.
It was a pursuit dogged by mishap for Jongewaard, who arrived over the line one minute and forty seconds behind Norris sporting a face battered and bloodied by several whip attacks by wayward foliage.
Norris showed himself as a star of the single trail, however, by maintain a blistering pace and holding off any attacks Jongewaard could muster to finish in 04:32:52.
“The last few years I’ve had a real crack here and come very close, so this is just awesome to win this year and put everyone away,” said Norris, who once ahead was not aware that Jongewaard was constantly within two minutes of his rear wheel.
“It was tough out there as it always is,” said Norris of the hot conditions, which contrasted starkly to last year’s mud fest. “I just wanted to keep the tempo going without going too hard and blowing. Once I got to the Shotz Singletrack loop, I was ready to put the hammer down to get some more time. Once we came through the village for the final loop I was pretty confident I could hold him (Jongewaard) off, although the legs were pretty sore on that final climb.”
Having raced the Tour Down Under road event earlier in the year, Norris credits the stamina on display today to increasingly long hours on the road.
“I’m pretty used to being in the saddle for five hours day in, day out now, so that definitely helped.”
The 1-2 result was foreshadowed by three-time Odyssey winner Jongewaard who, asked on the starting line to name contenders likely to halt his tilt at back-to-back wins and title number four, nominated Norris as the likely contender.
“Lachie has been pretty strong on the mountain lately,” said Jongewaard,“And my lead-in performances have been a bit average, which has put me back in my place a bit, so he’ll be taking it to me for sure.”
Jongewaard’s prediction came into focus at the 67km mark with Norris a good two-plus minutes ahead. The defending champion passed through the transition at the Forrest event village steaming and determined to give it all in the final 33km to gain the lead. Passing back through at the 87km split, Jongewaard had pulled in half a minute, but the final 13km was not enough time nor was there enough in the legs for Jongewaard, Norris taking the winner’s tape comfortably maintaining 2 minutes 19 seconds over Jongewaard’s second place (4:35:11).
In third place was Team Merida Flightcentre rider, and 2010 Odyssey winner, Adrian Jackson, finishing in 4:42:27.
In the women’s field, last year’s winner, Team Merida Flightcentre rider Peta Mullens, was out to prove a point after her 2011 title was shadowed by Gracie Elvin taking line honours ahead of her only to be penalised for on-course assistance, elevating Mullens to the prime podium position.
Mullens's efforts in the heat today showed her as a deserving back to back winner, however, passing Adventure Racing World Champion, Frenchwoman Myriam Guillot, who led until approximately the 50km mark. Mullens then held off a late sustained challenge from Giant rider and Forrest local, Jess Douglas, who slipped into second place after the 87km split.
“I wanted to come here this year and prove I was good enough to win on my own merits,” said Mullens, who was worried about a lack of endurance conditioning prior to the race.
“It was still tough out there – my glutes were cramping so much in the last five kilometres that I couldn’t sit in the saddle!”
Mullens and Douglas worked together for the first half of the race to get over the range before the gloves came off.
“I was with Jess for the first fifty kays – she was pretty much babysitting me because because I had not done an endurance ride for a little while so I was a bit nervous. Then I saw an opportunity at the fifty, but afterwards worried that I’d gone too early. So yes, I’m stoked with my win.”
Like many of the elites racing today, Mullens now lines up for the Australian XC Championships next weekend looking for a national title.
Spurred on by passing Guillot in the second half, Douglas made the decision to go hard and reeled Mullens back from a three-plus minute lead at the 87km mark to a 1 minute 15 second final gap at the Kona finish arch.
“That was probably my best [Odyssey] race ever,” said Douglas shortly after crossing the line. “I sort of felt it in my bones, so to speak. Just in the last thirteen kays I was thinking ‘Oh, do I have to fight for this?’ But then I thought ‘Do you want to come third or second and then you never know you might come first, you just never know’,” said Douglas, who attributes her last energy push to a bottle filled thirds with Coca Cola, Red Bull and water.
Guillot, who recently won the Anaconda Adventure Race in Lorne and took a fourth last weekend in the Speight’s Coast to Coast multisport event, crossed 4 minutes 45 seconds behind race winner Mullens, declaring the Kona Odyssey “her favourite race”.
50km Kona Shorty
Team Torq dominate men’s, Rhodes returns from injury for women’s win
In the 50km Kona Shorty, Team Torq dominated the men’s with the orange and black-clad Jack Haig and Robbie Hucker crossing the line in a time of 2:16:16 in what looked like a dead heat to the eye. Electronic timing splits revealed the 50km Shorty win went to a smiling Jack Haig by a slim 0.07 second.
“It was a great day for riding out there, the course was sweet,” said Haig. “We’re both pretty happy with how it panned out; a quick time, great weather compared to last year and an ideal lead-in to next weekend’s national titles.”
In the women’s Shorty, it was a return to form for Merida Flightcentre rider, Terri Rhodes, who overcomes a year plagued by a crash in the Oceanic titles, a broken collarbone leading to a bone infection, her recovery leaving little opportunity for any race conditioning. Rhodes (2:41:53) took the line five minutes ahead of Jo Williams with Josie Simpson a further four minutes in arrears.
“That’s the most fun I’ve had racing,” said an elated Rhodes after crossing the line. “But then it’s always fun to win!”
“This is my first proper race for about a year and the win has given me a huge confidence boost going into the National Titles next weekend. I just wanted to get back racing and hopefully on the podium, so I’m stoked with today’s result.”
Rhodes attributes her newfound form to “secret training” with her older sister, Alexis Rhodes, an elite road rider with Team Green EDGE-AIS.
Winner Mens Lachie Norris
(Photo credit: 2IMAGE Jon Barter)
cycling, bicycle, bicycle racing, mountain bike, bicycle race, event, cycling event, mtb, cycling news, cycle, cyclenation, Rapid Ascent, Kona Odyssey Mountain Bike, Chris Jongewaard, Lachlan Norris