A day of intense racing in Melbourne kicks off 2012 Champion System/SRAM Australian Cyclocross Series.
It was a landmark day for Australian cycling on Saturday with Melbourne hosting the first event in the inaugural Champion System/SRAM Australian Cyclocross Series, the Specialized Cross Melburn.
Cyclo-cross, or CX as it's known, has a long history in the mud fields of Europe and has also seen spectacular growth in the USA, however it is a relatively new phenomenon in Australia.
Think a combination of road racing and mountain biking, with some steeplechase thrown in for good measure, and you'll be getting close. Throughout the races, riders are forced to tackle various terrains including pavement, grass, mud and sand, all while negotiating obstacles such as rocks, steps and logs.
In the opening event at Melbourne International Karting Complex in Port Melbourne, the much promised thrills, spills and mud came early as the elite women took to a course that bore no resemblance to the one the U/19, C and B grades rode on due to an icy downpour just one hour earlier.
Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro winner Melissa Anset and National Road Series star Lisa Jacobs went from the gun, with the first two laps a close affair.
Both women rode smooth, controlled races throughout, with Anset's off-road skills keeping her in the mix until Jacobs' top end road fitness helped her pull away, for the win ahead of Anset and Gemma Kernich.
"Cyclocross is very new to me, but I wanted to be able to use my road riding strengths and it worked out today," said Jacobs, who claimed the opening event of the 2012 Subaru National Road Series, the Mersey Valley Tour, in April.
"It was pretty muddy out there today, but it made for some fun riding. Plus there were big crowds, you'd go around a corner and there'd be people screaming with cow bells, it was great." Jacobs added.
The men's elite field, stacked with 69 seeded riders, was headlined by road cyclists Lachie Norris, Chris Luxton and Marc Williams, 'cross specialist Lewis Rattray, Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro and Cape to Cape winner Andy Blair, young gun Luke Fetch, and a host of former and current national road and MTB champions.
With the rain clearing and the sun poking through the dark clouds, a group of eight put daylight into a charging field by half way through the first lap.
However at the hour mark, the different road surfaces and the thick mud and wet grass began to take their toll on some of Australia's strongest riders, with the leading eight becoming just two. Adrian Jackson and Luke Fetch pulled away from the field, with the unseeded Fetch breaking away to win in front of the large crowd gathered at the wind battered Specialized finish arch.
"I started about fiftieth on the grid, so I was a fair way down," said Fetch after his win. "But I ended going up the outside, got a really good start, and latched onto the back of lead group.
"Then I managed to drop AJ and come through for the win, so it was great." he said.
With his family in attendance, Paul Redenbach's finished third after an epic battle with Rattray.
Perhaps the ride of the day came from Mitchell Codner who, despite being dropped off the lead group early in proceedings, rode a highly intelligent race to come from nowhere to move into third with three laps to go. But, after breaking his drivetrain in a sand trap going into his bell lap, his 15 minute walk with his bike on his shoulder to finish the race warmed the hearts of all present.
The series now moves to Adelaide for Race 3 and 4, to be held at the Adelaide Park Lands, 11-12 August
2012. Entries Close
For more information and to enter the Champion System SRAM National
Cyclo-cross Series, visit www.cycling.org.au/cyclocross
Specialized Cross Melburn Results
Champion System SRAM National Cyclo-cross Series