The first outing in this year’s Seasons of Pain series was marked by blistering racing in more ways than one, as temperatures nudged the 37 degree-Celsius mark, adding extra sting to the offroad duathlon challenge.
As Melbournites sweltered in an even hotter 45-degree concrete jungle, adventure athletes tackled the 32km course amidst a snowgum jungle, with the slight cooling benefit of a 1500 metre altitude and shade of Mount Baw Baw’s Victorian alpine bushland.
With the lure of a pool sitting at the finish line atop the infamous ‘Sting’ – a 300-metre vertical run ascent – solo and team competitors headed out for two trail run laps including an out-and-back to Mt St Gwinear, and two mountain bike loops on freshly groomed singletrack.
Leading the pack was last Seasons’ (2013) summer edition winner, Jarad Kohlar, who belted out fast, chased hard by Spring’s winner, Brodie Gardner, keen for a back to back win off last year’s November effort.
It was still either racers’ title at the end of the first trail run, only seconds separating the two into bike transition. However, Kohlar’s expertise on the tight technical singletrack gave him a four minute breather as he came back off the first ride.
On the second run the difference between the two athletes was negligible, both recording 29-minute legs before Kohlar again put another three minutes on Gardner on the final mountain bike loop. Lucky he did, as Gardner fought hard up the killer climb that is the 1.4km Sting, snatching back four minutes. It wasn’t enough to extinguish Kohlar’s lead, the well-regarded adventure racer’s mountain bike legs and an overall time of 2 hours 41 minutes enough to secure the win, Gardner collapsing into the finish line pool three minutes in arrears.
It is early days for Gardner, however, as he transitions from competing in triathlons. Given improvement on the mountain bike over time and with more singletrack experience, there is sure to be some heated racing up front in future Seasons of Pain events.
In third place was Ben Pattie, a further three minutes behind Gardner in 2 hours 47 minutes.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming back, but I’d hear about Brodie’s win in the last edition and I knew Ben was in the field, so I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy day to stay out in front,” said Kohlar. “The heat was a game changer, and I tried to find the balance between pushing too hard and hitting a heat wall and maintaining enough pace to stay in the lead. The Sting still got me though – I felt lightheaded trying to get up it, so was happy to come away with the win and even happier to see that pool at the finish line.”
In the women’s category, all early bets were on Jade Forsyth, a racer with a mountain biking background and a previous winner at Seasons of Pain in 2013. Claim on the first female title for 2014 was, however, made on the first run leg by Britta Weller, who edged out in front and stayed there all afternoon. Her splits across all course legs were never threatened, despite notable runner and second place-getter, Ashley Lofton, putting in some smashing run times. Weller recorded a time of 3 hours 31 minutes. The split between second and third was closer, with Nicola Smithers punching up the Sting six minutes faster than Lofton, close but not enough to rise above third place, four minutes behind Lofton.
“The first lap I was in a lot of pain, and was thinking that it was going to be really tough,” said Weller, who has a mixed competitive background across both mountain biking and trail running, making the Seasons of Pain format well suited. “But then I settled in, relaxed and started to enjoy the racing. But I never expected to win!”
In the teams, Craig Flockhart and Chris Ord, stayed ahead of the pairs pack, recording the fastest times in the teams division across all four laps of the course bar the Sting, where they slowed somewhat (and were only third fastest team). Their time of 2 hours 56 was still enough to secure the win over Drew Cummings and Damien Bowden in 3 hours 22 mins.
1. Jarad Kohlar 02:41:16
2. Brodie Gardner 02:44:19
3. Ben Pattie 02:47:56
1. Britta Weller 03:31:37
2. Ashley Lofton 04:03:04
3. Nicola Smithers 04:07:38
1. Flockhart / Ord 02:56:24
2. Cummings/Bowden 03:22:19
3. Crunden / Ormsby 03:26:23
FULL RESULTS: here
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