We love downhill race day at Thredbo. The long, rough, fast and physical track always makes for awesome racing, so were super excited about the third and final day of the Cannonball MTB Festival.
Thredbo has played host to more legendary downhill races than just about any other venue in Australia, and with $5000 on the line for the men’s win and $2500 for the women, the Australia Open Downhill was going to be another one to remember. Seeding on Saturday afternoon hadn’t thrown up too many surprises, but as we found out, seeding results mean nothing.
A warm morning and dry, strong winds ensured the race track was in absolutely prime condition; Friday’s snow and slush had given way to dusty bomb holes, particularly on the new sections of track which were becoming whooped out and choppy, just as you’d hope. In the more open sections of trail the gusty westerly wind was becoming a bit of an issue, and more than a couple of riders found themselves launching the canyon gap a lot further than anticipated with a tail wind pushing them along.
When the start times were revealed it was a surprise to see the women running in reverse order, with fastest qualifier Tracey Hannah up first, followed by Tegan Molloy. Tracey, Tegan and Danielle Beecroft (who had a big off in her seeding run) were definitely the three favourites and apparently the call to swap the race order had been made to ensure both Tracey and Tegan got a clear run at the track.
As the first women on course, Tracey Hannah had the hot seat all to herself, with no rider able to threaten her time. She is still on another level when compared to the much younger Dani Beecroft and Tegan Molloy – her years of experience racing at a World Cup level shone through, and she took the win (though perhaps not as comfortably as she’s anticipated, with Molloy only 12 seconds back). Danielle Beecroft’s form keeps getting better and better too, her third place after a huge weekend of competing was a fine way to cap off what must’ve been a seriously tiring three days!
In the men’s race all eyes were on the highly anticipated showdown between Mick Hannah and Troy Brosnan – surely it would be one of these two World Cup stars who’d know how to tame a long, physical track like Thredbo?
No one was surprised when local rider Tom Crimmins slotted himself into the hot seat with five riders still to go, posting a time of 5:30 – the older of the Crimmins brothers calls Thredbo his home track and his form is superb. But he didn’t get to keep the seat warm for too long. His 16-year old brother Andrew Crimmins came flying out of the final woods section at insane speed, and when he stopped the clock at a ridiculous 5:26 we don’t think even he could believe it.
It was the Crimmins family in first and second with only Brosnan and Hannah left on the hill. Hannah was the first to appear, and when he shot out into the final berms it was clear that he hadn’t done enough. His 5:32 was well back and ultimately good enough for fifth place, with Hannah quick to acknowledge that he’d been too conservative and knew he’d finished with far too much energy in reserve. With both Crimmins boys now guaranteed a podium, Troy Brosnan was the only threat to the $5000 winner’s cheque. But even with an admittedly clean run, the two time junior World Champ couldn’t match the pace of the younger Crimmins, coming in two seconds back for second place.
The weekend wrapped up with poolside, with the presentations accompanied by a ‘greasy pole’ session, with riders attempting to ride over a 10 metre log across the pool (a spectacle last seen back at the 1994 National Champs!). Awesome stuff.
All in all, it’s got to be said the inaugural Cannonball MTB Festival was a massive, emphatic success. We’ve been coming to Thredbo for years, and this was hands down the best mountain bike event we’ve ever been to at this grand old venue; the mix of events, the quality of the riding, the trails, the festival vibe… it all added up a seriously fun weekend. There were around 240 riders this year and we’d be very surprised if that number doesn’t double for next year.
Flow will be bringing you a full event video in the coming days, so stay tuned, and we’ll see you at Thredbo next year!