Australian team members dominated the Be Active Australian Championships Mountain Bike Orienteering events which were held in WA this week. The terrain, courses and weather were all variable, but the Australian team coped the best, holding off challenges from NZ and the WA locals. The middle distance race was held in a heatwave, on a forest block with multiple cross-country single tracks at Wellington Mills near Bunbury. NZ scored with Mark Lawson winning from Paul Darvodelsky (NSW), and Grant Lebbink (VIC) third. In the women’s race, foot orienteering Australian Champion Anna Sheldon (QLD) continued her good form with a win from Cath Chalmers (WA) and Mary Fien (NSW).
The long distance event the next day was dominated by severe weather with driving rain and cold conditions as a strong cold front moved through the area. That was no help to Kiwi Lawson who slipped to third behind Darvodelsky and Lebbink. An indistinct track in a new pine plantation cost Sheldon her second win as veteran Carolyn Jackson prevailed, with the also-affected Fien again in third.
Finally the short distance event was held on a downhill arena near Perth airport and the complexity of the track network combined with the steep slopes flummoxed quite a few. The podia were the same however – in the men’s race, Grant Lebbink got to the top step to register the win in the first championship event of this type in Australia, and Darvodelsky and Lawson were second and third respectively. The women’s podium again consisted of the bronze medalists from the World Championship relay in 2004, but this time the order was Sheldon first, Fien second, and Jackson third.
The WA challenge looked the part but local knowledge probably proved less than useful. Marck Norrett had the lead briefly in the long distance race, but faded late. Ricky Thackray also challenged hard in that race and halfway round was on the virtual podium, but came a cropper on the long leg. Stuart Greig was technically adept and skilful but needs a couple more years of race practice. Pete Spencer was the most likely contender and came away with three fourth placings – not bad for a relative newcomer. In the women’s events, Cath Chalmers was up there but will be disappointed with just that one podium place. Nadia Komyshan, WA State Champion, performed well and will improve, while Sarah Dunnage has talent and years on her side.