This coming weekend, we turn our attention to the latest race in the ANZ Skyrunning series, the Hounslow Classic. This race is exciting for a number of reasons, in that while it might be the first SkyRace in NSW, it’s also being held on some of the most beautiful tracks in the Blue Mountains, containing some of the most brutal climbs going. Although only its first year, the race is a sell-out and I think has massive potential to be one of the States premier ultras for those looking for rugged beauty.
The Hounslow Classic Ultra is pure brutality – 68kms and 4,100m of climbing, along with 4,100m of heading back down too. And when the cut-off is 17 hours, you know there are a few people out there in for a lot of fun!
There are two races, the ultra, which we’ve mentioned and stands at 68kms and then the Skyrace, which is 23kms – although this is no ordinary 23kms – there’s 1,700m of climbing in this beauty too.
So who’s in line for some accolades of inspirational in the ultra?
Well there’s a broad mix of Aussies and Kiwis who’ll be fighting this one out and it’s great to see a number of inform East Island runners making the trek across the Tasman to compete on the mainland.
In the ladies, Jo Johansen is likely to be head to head with Beth Cardelli in a re-run of the Buffalo Stampede match-up where only fifteen minutes separated them. Beth is likely to be the slightly favoured runner having trained on the course a fair bit. Jo however, is in good nick we hear and I think the gap between them will be shorter than fifteen minutes this time around. Expect a close one between these two.
In the mens, those contending for the title include the return of Ben Duffus after his win at the inaugural Coastal High 50kms just under a month ago. He’s had a dog of a time with it this year with injury, but he’s learned a lot since his infamous blow-up at the Buffalo Stampede back in 2014. Ben races smart and hard, particularly in the latter sections of the race. He’ll also love the massive 30%+ gradient climbs on this course and that will play to his strengths.
One name no-one will know is Eric Holt. Heck I’d never heard of him until today, that was when race director Sean Greenhill popped me a little text to say, ‘include this fella’. I have nothing on him, except that he’s been tearing up the course in training and has been nabbing Strava crowns from the King of the Blue Mountains, Andy Lee. Some say he’ll go sub 8:30 on this course, which is likely to win it outright. All will be revealed on Saturday I guess!
When it comes to the overall Skyrunning ANZ title, these two fellas are likely to be duking it out between then – Grant Guise and John Winsbury. They’re also both in with a shot at a podium here I would state too. Grant has had a big year, including a ‘big picnic’ around the UTMB course recently – but credit where credit is due. He could have thrown the towel in for a cosy DNF, but chose to suffer in the ‘montanes’. Whether he’s fully recovered for this one, who knows, but Grant is a solid mountain man.
John is a previous Bogong to Hotham winner, as well as podiumed at Kepler. Another thoroughbred mountain man who won’t get out of bed for less than 4k of vert. While a win would be awesome, I think John’s goal will be to stay ahead of Grant 🙂
Swinging back to the ladies, the rest of the pack chasing Jo and Beth include Lucy Bartholomew, who’s spent the summer in Europe under the wings of Emilie Forsberg. It will be interesting to see the progression Lucy has made after a few months of lung-busting vertical in the ‘montanes’ of Europe.
Maggie Jones finished just outside the top ten at TNF100/UTA earlier this year, and finally Kiwi Jean Beaumont is a real shot for a podium too we think. While she’s a veteran in age, in stature and racing ability she gives just as much, if not more than the younger guns. She’s a sub 24hr Leadville runner and has ‘monstered’ the Northburn 100 miler course too. She knows all about big climbs and is very likely to be near the top of the field on race day.
Finally, returning to the mens field, there’s Blue mountains stalwart Andy Lee who’s been preparing in a big way for this one – expect a good showing from him. As well as Tom Brazier, Marty Lukes and GNW100 miler winner, Ewan Horsburgh.
Marty is probably the pick of the bunch from above and is all class. There’s nothing in New Zealand he hasn’t done and on paper is the fastest man in the field if you were to base it upon quick 100km times. A real podium contender for sure. Tom spent a bit of time over in Europe this year, so will have the goat legs on him, it would be great to see him put in a top performance here and benchmark himself against some of the best in Australia and New Zealand.
Keep an eye out too for Ian Gallagher – quick over the flat tracks, having registered a 2:34 marathon this year already. Not sure how much mountain training he’s done – not much I’m assuming, but he’s one of those guys, like Jono O’Loughlin, that is blessed with running talent, so will be up among the leaders certainly for the first half. Whether he can hold on will be another thing.
Scores on the doors? We think Ben Duffus will take out the mens race, with Beth just edging out Jo in the ladies.
While the 23kms isn’t something we’d normally feature, there’s plenty a solid ultrarunner taking part in the shorter event. It’s hosting the likes of Ruby Muir, Jono O’Loughlin, Scotty Hawker and Kristian Day.