5 June 2023

Local riders get up close and personal with the best in the country at the XCM National Champs

| Josef Winkler
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mountain bike rider racing

Local rider Josef Winkler takes on the nation’s best at Pomingalarna Reserve. Photo: Supplied.

It’s a real pleasure to be able to write about this event after Wagga Wagga hosted the XCM (Cross Country Marathon) Champs for the second year in a row and boy, was it a show to be seen.

Riders from across the country came out to race for the national green and gold jersey around our local trail network at Pomingalarna Multisport Complex.

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The 25km lap consisted of three main climbs and flowing downhills in between.

The first climb of the course was the most challenging, hitting a 26 per cent grade right at the top, a muscle-burning, gruelling section.

Mountain bike race

Riders from across the country cheered each other on through the weekend. Photo: Supplied.

This first climb is what the riders faced from 9:30 in the morning – straight into the deep end!

The day was gloomy from the start, with low-lying cloud cover and misty conditions. Plenty of riders were rugged up trying to keep the muscles warm.

Once the race started, the temperature rose and the trails were absolutely perfect. Overnight rain created what we call ”hero dirt” – the perfect amount of moisture in the soil, giving it a tacky feel under the wheels.

mountain bike rider racing

The gruelling climbs at Pomingalarna Reserve put riders to the test. Photo: Supplied.

A well-defined race line on most climbs made for great traction and fast riding, with the elite field completing 108km in just over four hours. (*I managed to finish sixth in my category, covering 75km in 4hr:17min, the best result yet in my MTB career!)

As the day unfolded, the fast pace and harsh terrain wore down the body and pushing through till the end was a real task, but it makes it all the more rewarding when you come through that finish line and hear everyone cheering you on.

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The MTB community is so supportive, calling out encouragement from the sidelines, and there is congratulations all round from fellow riders at the end of the race.

At the top level, Brent Rees won his first Elite national marathon title in the men’s, while Peta Mullens collected her second green and gold jersey.

As well as bringing the elite riders to town, the event was also open to less-experienced weekend pedallers with the Wagga Wiradjuri Wander, which takes place over one lap of the course, giving locals a chance to taste the sport at their own pace.

Having the opportunity for local riders to witness Australia’s best in action was an amazing opportunity and being able to race alongside them was also fantastic.

female and male mountain bike racers with medals

Brent Rees and Peta Mullens dominated the Elite category. Photo: AusCycling.

A simple snag or steak sandwich is all you need after an event like that and they were readily available on the day.

The atmosphere was great and spirits were high even though the weather was not perfect, and there were plenty of smiling faces and big grins.

If you want to explore the trails yourself and take on Pomingalarna, each Sunday morning the MTB Wagga club hosts a social ride where everyone is welcome no matter your skill level, and a coffee after the ride is mandatory!

I’m usually out riding on Saturday afternoons, so if anyone would like to experience what Wagga’s trails have to offer, let me know.

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