The Real Insurance XCM Series is about to fire up again, with the Stevens Bikes Husky 100 marking round four this coming Saturday 30th June. Jet Racing Team Captain Anthony Shippard is looking forward to an exciting weekends racing at Husky.
“We’ve got contenders competing across all of the races and catagories. I took a 4th place last year at Husky, and would love to go one better. Its going to be tough though – the field is stacked” said Shippard, who was showing great form with his riding at the SRAM Singletrack Mind race at Kowen Forest on Sunday 24th June.
“Looking at the startlist, there is Series Leader and National Champ, Andy Blair, last years winner, Matt Fleming, winner of round 1 and 2 Shaun Lewis, as well as Trenton Day, James Downing, Adrian Jackson – it’s got everyone. Mitch Codner – who sprinted me for 3rd last year is back on the MTB too after his period racing in Belgium on the road. I would expect him to be a ‘sleeper’ in the pack.” Plus Jason English may be receiving some post WEMBO super compensation.
“My team mate, who is in resurgent form, Kyle Ward isn’t on the original start list but would be a strong outside bet. I expect him to be right up amongst it. He has been training hard since his move to Sydney, and the way he dominated at the Singletrack Mind event in Kowen, is an ominous sign for his competitors.” Ward has raced the 50km events so far in the series, and is now racing the full distance events for the last three races.
Marathon racing doesn’t need to favour the older crowd – and the performance of International stars like Burry Stander, Urs Huber, Konny Looser and many others support that. But in Australia, the shift of fast XC talent to Marathon (XCM) racing has been taken a little longer. Shippard was quick to point this out.
“As a general comment, I’d like to say how nice it is to see some younger-guns racing these 100′s now. Sure, the old boys will be up there, but with Kyle, Trent, Mitch, Dan McDonald – we are seeing some of the young XC racers stepping up – which is great for Australian racing. It says a lot about the effort and resources that Real Insurance have put in too. Getting these young punks out of bed in the morning to ride for 5hrs needs quite a draw-card! I think we can expect some skinny jeans on the podium, probably some trendy facial hair, and maybe some kind of asymmetric haircut…Either way, I am starting to feel old.” If MTBA were to change their developmental focus, then it may be more than just the prize money on offer that pulls the younger crowd. A developmental pathway would help.
“Speaking of old, and less likely to be rocking ‘spray-on’ denim, Wayne Dickinson – racing for Jet in the Veterans Category. Wayne has picked up a 5th, 6th and 13th in the XCM series so far, I think he will go close to the podium at Husky” predicts Shippard.
No one likes crashing, and Garry Millburn had a terrible head on collision in France last year – but he’s making great progress. “In the 50km race, we have an emotional return for Garry Millburn. Husky 2011 was the scene of his last win before his accident. It’s going to be a special race for Garry and his road to recovery has been well documented. Less has been said about how patient he has been, and not rushing back into big training. He is getting very close to finding some real form, so I expect Garry to be close. Garry will be riding with ‘super domestique’ Rob Booker. Rob rode with Kyle at the Convict 50km, and his work ensured a Jet one-two. Rob and Garry together will be quite a combination.”
“My prediction for the women is clearer cut. I have huge respect for all the Elite women racing. It’s tough to be motivated with such small fields, but it is going to take a lot to keep Jenny Fay from the top step of the podium. Jenny trains with the Jet crew, so although she races for Rockstar, she is part of the broader ‘gang’ . She has returned to training since the marathon champs with a bang. I expect a huge ride.”
Racing is more than just training though, as so many external factors come in on the day. Shippard is aware of this.
“What are my worries – well, the weather. It’s a great track at Husky, but it’s so low, it struggles to drain. I know they have been working hard to drain the bogs and puddles though, and the sun has been out a bit – fingers crossed. My biggest concern ahead of the weekend however is the fact that we have the new Jet store opening party on Thursday night – beers and pizza two nights before the race is hardly ideal preparation with the team all set to attend.” But sometimes… it can be.
Full reports from the Stevens Bikes Husky 100 and the Jet store opening will be on MarathonMTB.com.