The 2010 Highland Fling was run and won in mixed conditions in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales on Sunday with men’s World 24 hour Solo Champion Jason English and Helen Logie claiming the respective men’s and women’s titles in the 112 kilometre event. Graeme Arnott triumphed in the 100 mile edition, with Katrin Van der Spiegel the only female to cross the finish line in the longform event.
Riders had lined up for the respective events under a warm Sunday morning sun. The previous evening had also been warm as the whole town, buzzing with mountain bikers, embraced the event. The Bundanoon Dash held on race-eve is a great way to showcase the high calibre riders to both the masses and the town. Australia has some quality riders, and were able to see them perform up close before the main event. Not unlike a ‘city cross’ at a European Marathon, which have heats of around six riders do ‘battle’ through the streets of the host town the evening before (or earlier) the main race.
Come Sunday the Open and Age group categories took off first at 7:30am, along with the 100 mile (160 kilometre) riders. The pace was moderate as an interesting group formed with a combination of the three categories. Never truly strung out, the 27 kilometre feed zone was still reached in a little over and hour. By this time the main protagonists were Ben Carmody, Dave Evans, Mark Fenner, Graeme Arnott, Mike Blewitt, John Blankenstein and a few others.
With a five minute timing pause due to a train crossing on the course, riders grabbed the opportunity to top-up their water and food from the neutral feedzone. Four riders shot through, resulting in a mild chase behind. Soon back together again, Evans struggled in the Wingello singletrack and a gap opened. This left Fenner, Blewitt and Arnott together with Evans dangling in the singletrack. The front four riders contained three 112 kilometre racers, and Blankenstein, getting a great ride in front of the other 100 mile contenders. For the 112 kilometre racers, they could carry on after the 53 kilometre Wingello forest ‘stage’ and do the final 33 kilometres to the finish. Arnott, Fenner and Blewitt set off through Wingello again, the 100 mile requirement, in pursuit of ‘Blanko’, who reports fed back was 1 minute up the trail.
Soon enough, intentions were clear, as Arnott forced the pace and only Fenner could follow. Not long after, Arnott continued solo in his pursuit of Blankenstein, reeling him in and putting further time into him to take the win. Behind, Blewitt caught Fenner as he struggled with vomiting, and carried on for third place.
Katrin Van der Spiegel finished the event, becoming the first female finisher in the 100 mile Fling.
Starting behind the the masses, the Elite racers have a tough job getting through hundreds of mountain bikers. Matt Fleming and Pete Hatton led an early break, however this came back. In part, due to the efforts of Andy Blair.
“I was feeling alright, so I thought I may as well use what I had,” explained Blair.
Shortly afterwards Jason English made his race-winning move. Behind, Blair worked well with Pete Hatton, swapping turns all the way to the finish. “We just kept working, as with the timing pauses you never know how close it will be,” continued Blair.
Other racers in the Elite field found the going tough. Road racers Sam Moorehouse and Justin Morris have done complete domestic seasons in Australia and the US respectively. Morris declared the Highland Fling the “toughest race I have done all year.” Moorehouse agreed with his road counterpart, saying, “That was hard. I blew up and absolutely struggled for about two hours.”