Courtney Atkinson and Renata Bucher won the men's and women's elite titles, respectively, at the inaugural XTERRA Great Ocean Road off-road triathlon in Anglesea on Sunday morning.
While it's just the first XTERRA win for Atkinson, it's No. 30 for Bucher who has now won an XTERRA major in 13 different countries, the U.S. Territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan).
Anglesea, the Adventure Capital of the Surf Coast of Victoria, greeted hundreds of offroad triathletes and trail runners who turned out today to celebrate the return of XTERRA to Australia and the launch of XTERRA Great Ocean Road. Conditions were ideal with temperatures in the mid 20's (Celsius) with light surf.
Two-time Australian Olympian, Courtney Atkinson, in his first XTERRA appearance, literally ran away with the victory.
"I got through it without breaking anything, so I'm happy," said Atkinson, who got on a mountain bike for the first time after the Olympic Games last year and shortly after broke his wrist while training for the Mark Webber charity adventure race held each November in Tasmania.
While nothing broke, Atkinson did get a taste of why we say in XTERRA that "Mother Nature is your toughest competitor."
"I ran over a massive brown snake on the bike but it didn't get me," said Atkinson. "It worked out. I knew my strengths and weaknesses, and I worked to them."
Atkinson came out of the water at the front with Australian XTERRA racer, Ben Allen, who is fresh off winning the XTERRA Triple Crown (XTERRA Philippines, XTERRA Saipan and XTERRA Guam held in March in Asia/Pacific), and South African, Stuart Marais.
Allen and Atkinson rode neck and neck on the first part of the bike, with Atkinson leading into the narrow, twisting, single track section about half way into the mountain bike.
"I thought if I could get to the single track and get in front, that once I got out of it, my strength would be on the open fire roads. I had to work really hard to stay with Ben to that point, and get in front, and from there it was limiting my losses," he said.
He caught Allen about 4km into the run on a long beach stretch and pulled away to take the win with a margin of almost four minutes over Allen.
"Getting out on the bike, Courtney was right on my tail, and I wasn't able to drop him on the fire trails. My mountain bike skills were a little bit better (than Atkinson's) and I was able to gain a 30-45 second advantage on the single track, but there wasn't enough of it for me to capitalize on my advantage. Courtney caught me at the turn around on the run and just put the hammer down. I tried to stick with him, but he's a world-class athlete," said Allen.
"I'm stoked to be able to race with him," said Allen. "Guys like Courtney bring XTERRA to another level. For me that's exciting and a whole new challenge. I'll be back with all guns blazing next weekend for XTERRA New Zealand."
South Africa's Stuart Marais finished third almost three minutes behind Allen.
2013 XTERRA Great Ocean Road Results:
Anglesea, VIC, Australia - April 7, 2013
|Pro Men Results||Time||
|Pro Women Results||Time|
|Courtney Atkinson (AUS)||1:53:26||
|Renata Bucher (SUI)||2:08:18|
|Ben Allen (AUS)||1:57:19||
|Jacqui Slack (GBR)||2:13:56|
|Stuart Marais (RSA)||2:00:04||
|Carina Wasle (AUT)||2:19:55|
|Rory Downie (GBR)||2:04:42||
|Peri Gray (AUS)||2:22:42|
|Olly Shaw (NZL)||2:08:13||
|Deanna Blegg (AUS)||2:28:18|
In the women's race Switzerland's Renata Bucher had a decisive victory with a lead of almost five minutes over runner-up, Great Britain's Jacqui Slack.
In doing so, Bucher racked up her 30th XTERRA Championship win since her first XTERRA race in 2004.
"I really wanted to win here," said Bucher, who spent several weeks in the area before and after the XTERRA Triple Crown series in March, where she was runner-up at all three races. But today was her day.
Bucher was second out of the water behind Slack and caught her on the fire road just before entering the single track where she took the race lead and never let it go.
"I love the bike course here," she said. "I trained hard and have spent hours on the trails. I left everything on the course and I'm super happy about that."
Slack had won XTERRA in Saipan and Guam only a few weeks earlier, however, today the win was elusive.
"There was no leeway in this race," said Slack. "I was pushing as hard as I could, but Renata was a different athlete."
Austrian Carina Wasle, who was racing in her fifth XTERRA World Tour major this season having competed at South Africa (4th), Philippines (DNF), Saipan (2nd), and Guam (3rd), finished in third today.
"I'm happy with my race. The course is beautiful and the landscape is amazing," said Wasle.
Next on the XTERRA World Tour: The XTERRA Great Ocean Road off-road triathlon was the sixth World Tour event to qualify amateur athletes into the XTERRA World Championship to be held in Kapalua, Maui (Hawaii) on October 27, 2013. Next up, the XTERRA New Zealand Championship in Rotorua and the XTERRA West Championship at Lake Las Vegas, NV in the U.S. next weekend.
• Allen, Paterson Win XTERRA Philippines Championship
• Murray & Van Huyssteen Win XTERRA South Africa Championship