ITU Cross Triathlon World Champs Course Report
Who wouldn’t want to visit a place with the name Lake Crackenback? Situated between Thredbo & Jindabyne in the famous Snowy Mountains in NSW, this little place is starting to get a reputation as one of Australia’s mountain bike hubs. This is the first time the southern hemisphere has hosted the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships organized by the lovely crew at In 2 Adventure.
The scenery is simply stunning with typical Australian high country trails and lakes perfect for this style of off road racing. The main event for elite and age-group competitors consisted of a two lap 1.5km swim in the small but picturesque freshwater lake. Given it snowed here just the Sunday before race week, the lake warmed up quickly with the change in weather which saw competitors having the option of swimming in a wetsuit with the water at 18-19 degrees.
Transitions were short and sharp as the event site was located within the Lake Crackenback Resort. Competitors had to make sure they were on their game early with a tough, windy and technical stretch of about 2km on the bike before the course flattened out and became a fast flowing single track. The two-lap 30km bike course itself show-cased Lake Crackenback’s finest single track mixing up small pinchy climbs, undulated trail, burms, rock gardens, creek crossings and wider open trails. The track was well signed and supported by marshals. Although there were opportunities to pass, it involved clear communication and skill to successfully complete the pass. Therefore, athletes with a strong swim leg were rewarded with a clearer path on the bike before the course opened up toward the end of the lap.
The introduction of a feed zone & repair zone at transition between the two laps was successful as the weather warmed up. If your legs weren’t cooked by the end of the ride then the run course was sure to sort you out. Three laps of a technical 3.3km trail run with a little extra run up the blue carpet to the finish made the 10km run take most competitors between 50-70mins+. There were plenty of swampy mud patches, a suspension bridge, man-made & natural wooden & rock obstacles, 100m creek run, stairs and tunnel run for athletes to navigate. It paid to leave a little in the tank for the run and to pace yourself early in the first lap. The creek run was welcome as the temperatures increased but made for slow going. Athletes who had taken the time to scout out the course in the days prior were able to find the shallower spots, with a few even taking to swimming or dolphining in the deeper sections. Not long afterward a short but low tunnel required athletes to bend low and then scrabble back up onto the road.
The event organisation was simply outstanding. The local community turned out in force to support the event taking on roles of marshals, check points, hydration, post-race support etc. Given how technical the course was, it was definitely an advantage to get out a few days prior and run through slowly re-doing sections and then at race pace. The Geelong Performance Coaching crew, lead by Coach Stephane representing Belgium were well prepared arriving early in the week. The trails throughout Geelong & the Surf Coast have similar qualities to Crackenback and months of mountain biking over winter paid off with Coach Kate Bramley finishing 1st F25-29, Grant Davis 2nd M25-29, Coach Stephane 3rd M40-44, Ian Jenkins 11th M45-49, Josh Dew 15th M30-34, Andrew McNally 15th M35-39, David Birley 18th M40-4, Ron Thomas was an unfortunate DNF after two punctures in M45-49.
Coach Kate was also selected to compete in Australia’s A team for the Mixed Team Relay made up of one male & one female elite athlete and one male & one female age group athlete. The team put together a strong performance to take out the inaugural gold medal in front of New Zealand & Australia’s B Team.
If you are looking for something different to on-road triathlon I can highly recommend Cross Triathlon. The races are hard work but never boring and can take you to some truly amazing locations around Australia & the world.