With the Australian riding scene is still buzzing from the excitement of the recent Enduro World Series event down in Tassy, the last weekend of April saw riders from across the country flock to Falls Creek, in Victorian’s stunning high country, to complete in the opening round of the 2017 MTBA Gravity Enduro National Series.

Whilst the forecast of heavily ominous weather conditions across the weekend might have been a factor that kept some riders away, for the 115 competitors that lined up on Sunday morning for racing they were greeted with mostly blue skies and absolutely mint trail conditions were the flavor of the day. Pictured here is Alya Armitage in the pits getting ready to head out on course. Alya had an excellent day finishing in 2nd place in the U15 ladies category. It’s great to see so many young riders racing enduro across Australia!

Racing saw the riders battle the clock down 4 individual stages and they had to grind their way up 3 challenging liaison stages. Each course offered a unique mix of technical terrain which certainly challenged the riders. Take a look at the size of this jump at the bottom of the final race stage!

The elite men’s field was stacked with competition with over 30 riders hustling for a slice of the podium. After the 4 race stages were won and done the fastest man at the end of the day was the reigning National Elite Champion, local rider Chris Panozzo, who stormed to victory in a time of 27 minutes, 54 seconds. This was Chris’ maiden outing in his new team colours. The reigning champ recently signed with Santa Cruz / Lusty Industries and raced a 2017 Santa Cruz Bronson.

“Alpine weather arrived hard for Saturdays practice, temps were in the single digits and it was raining. It seems like 2017 will be the year of the shit weather. Once we got out in the rain in the late arvo for a single lap of each stage it was fun. We sessioned a few turns with some good turtle slide action lower down on Falls Creeks established go to track “Flo Town”. This stage would be an eleven minute lung buster come race day. Race day was sunny (thank f**k) and the tracks tacked up pretty quickly and in some cases made pedaling harder as mud stuck to your wheels. The day was all about consistency, with the shortest stage four and a half minutes long it meant you needed to get into a rhythm as quick as possible and not pop your lungs too early. There was a short delay while a rider was air lifted to safety after crashing hard on stage 2, but the rest of the day ran smooth. There was a solid liaison climb between stages 2 and 3, taking riders through the scenic loop around the high plains. No doubt there would have been a few tired legs Monday morning, especially the junior categories who completed the same distances and elevation as the Elite Men. In the end it was great to compete at a new event for the Enduro Calendar, Falls is a growing destination for mountain biking and even though it was a wet and cold couple of days, we still got to go out there and race our bikes!” Elite Men’s winner, Chris Panozzo

Ebony Tanzen was looking fast down each stage but in the end she had to settle for 2nd place as India Boer proved too strong and took out the Elite Ladies race in a time of 37 minutes, 24 seconds.

Remy-Meier-Smith looking pinned on his way to 3rd place in the U15 category. Another promising young talent coming up through the ranks.

XC champ turned Enduro hopeful, Paul Van Der Ploeg, was hoping for big things at the opening National Round but his day was crushed midway through the second stage leaving the 9 foot tall Giant Bikes rider no choice but to pull out of the race.

“Well it was definitely a ‘fight of the fittest’ that weekend down at Falls Creek. The tracks where very undulating and awkward which made racing really challenging. It was super fun though! I was really glad to make it through the day without any mechanicals or crashes and taking the win was the icing on the cake.”  Jr Men’s winner, Harrison Dobrowolski

Elite men’s podium with Chris taking top honours followed by a pair of Bens, Ben Forbes in 2nd and Ben Cory in 3rd!

And so with the opening round at Falls Creek now in the bag that’s one race down, 4 more to go on hunt to National Series title fight. The next stop on the calendar will be in 2 weeks time down at Mount Stromlo, right in the heart of the nations capital on May 20-21. Stromlo’s incredible trail network is a favorite for riders and likewise a big turnout is expected to battle it out on race day. Pre-entries are now open so be sure to sign up and secure your place for what promises to be an awesome weekend of race. Click here to pre-enter: https://online.mtba.asn.au/ERegister.aspx?E=3614

A full list of results from the Falls Creek Rd1 race can be found here:

http://livingitlive.com.au/results/GravityEnduroNatSeriesRd1/

All Photos // Charlie Brown