22 Jan 2013

This past weekend saw the debut of Specialized Australia’s newly formed mountainbike team, Swell-Specialized. The 6 member squad fought hard over the weekend to stamp their name on the opening round of the Real Insurance All Mountain and Gravity Cups.

Swell-Specialized MTB Team riders (L-R) David McMillan (Elite DH), Jackson Davis (U/19 DH), Andy Blair (Elite XCO/XCM), Shaun Lewis (Elite XCO/XCM), Jenny Fay (Elite XCM), Rhys Atkinson (Elite DH)

The Black Cockatoo Restaurant hosted the team’s official press introduction, with 25 media and invited guests enjoying drinks on the balcony of Mt Buller’s premium hotel.

Team introductions and a Q&A session entertained the who’s who of the MTB industry, with the Mt Stirling ranges providing a fitting backdrop for the powerhouse team.

Swell-Specialized’s marathon specialist, Jenny Fay made the trip down from Sydney especially for the team launch. “It’s really exciting to finally meet the entire Swell-Specialized team today! We have some super talent across XC, XCM & DH disciplines, I’m so proud to be part of the team for 2013”.

On Saturday it was down to business, with Cross Country athletes, Shaun Lewis and Andy Blair waging a hard fought battle against Chris Jongewaard and Jack Haig to take 3rd and 4th respectively in the Elite Men’s XCO race. The race was a great confidence builder for the Swell-Specialized duo, particularly Lewis whos focus is usually the marathon distance events.

“It’s great to get back onto the podium in these shorter events.” Said Lewis. “In the past few year my results have primarily been in the marathon events, but I still class the XCO as the blue ribbon of cross country, so it’s a great feeling to be back on the podium here at Mt Buller”.

Shaun Lewis and Andy Blair climbing in Saturday’s XCO Elite race

Saturday also saw official seeding runs for the Gravity Cup riders in the downhill event. Rhys Atkinson overcame some mechanical issues earlier in the day, to seed in 5th place in the elite men’s event, with newcomer to the Elite ranks, David McMillan, getting his first top 10 position in 8th on the seeding list against the blown out and rock laden course. 16 year old Jackson Davis who was having his debut in the hotly contested U/19 class seeded a respectable 11th .

With the smoke of the Gippsland bush fires clearing, Sunday’s grueling Point to Point XC race made it’s way down the mountain to tackle the World-Trail designed ‘Stone-Fly’ trail. Once again, Blair and Lewis planned a tactical race and worked together to take out the 3rd and 4th placing’s respectively, behind Jack Haig and eventual series leader, Chris Jongewaard.

Andy Blair (4th from left) and Shaun Lewis (1st from left) had a great start to the season, with a 3rd and 4th place overall finish at Mt Buller

Andy and Shaun now sit in 3rd and 4th overall going into Round 2 in Thredbo in 2 weeks time.

The gravity team had a tough day in their final runs, with Rhys Atkinson suffering 2 small crashes in the treacherous rock sections, but still managing a top 20 finish with 14th place. Jackson Davis made his way down incident free, finishing with a solid 12th place. Standout for the day was David McMillan who was having his first entry into the Elite ranks. David hit all the correct lines he was hoping for to retain his 8th place that was set during seeding. “It was pretty loose out there today!” proclaimed David, “the track was pretty beaten up but I managed to hit all the lines I wanted and am stoked to come away with a top 10 finish in my first Elite race!”.

David McMillan negotiating the rocky Mt Buller terrain in the Elite Men’s DH category

The Swell-Specialized team will move onto Thredbo on the 8th-10th of February for round 2 of the Real Insurance All Mountain and Gravity Cups.