As the New Year rings in, we always welcome one of the best races in Australia to the front of the queue, Bogong to Hotham. Now in its 29th year, this grassroots affair entices some of the best runners in the country with the female and male fields looking strong as always.
Breaking a little from the tradition of focusing on the female contenders first, we’re going to place our attention on two of the big guns in the men’s race: the master and apprentice – Stu Gibson and Blake Hose.
While it would be unfair to say anyone else has a rats chance in hell against these two, it would take a serious blow-up, injury or lack of form to not see these two guys taking out one and two on the podium.
Like Six Foot Track, every year we ponder as to whether the record at this race will finally go. I’d have to check properly, but I do think it’s one of the longest, if not the longest standing record in any ultra in Australia – sitting at a staggering twenty years old. The legend that is Andy Kromar ran 6:41 back in 1996 and since then, only a handful of runners have broken the magical seven-hour mark. Stu Gibson riding oh so close in 2014, just three minutes off the record and Blake a further 12 minutes behind.
Back then, these two lads ran most of the race together before Stu pulled away to take the win, but not the record he’s been after for so long. As Stu said to me last week, this race means a heck of a lot to him.
So it begs the question, will Stu finally grab the record he’s been so keen to bag for a number of years now, or will Blake Hose, under the guise of running coach David Byrne, steal it from Stu like a thief in the night?
There’s no doubting that when Stu is fully trained up and raring to go, he’s pretty much unbeatable. In fact, Stu has only lost two races on Australian soil. This race back in 2010 to John Winsbury and Cradle Mountain in 2013 to Rob Walter. Stu will always be there or thereabouts and you can’t ignore someone who just under a year ago, broke Ben Artup’s long-standing Six Foot Track record last year, lowering it by a minute to 3:14.
Stu trains to win. That is he picks a race, trains his nuts off for it and wins. So where’s the doubt?
To be fair to Stu (and he won’t mind me saying this!), the old boy is knocking on a bit (in the nicest possible way) and you have to wonder after so many years of punishing his body, can it take one more final hit at the record he so badly wants?
In the past he’s been very candid with me, saying that it gets harder and harder to get the body in shape for the beasting he puts it through in races. But the old boy is up for one last stand and I think he’ll make it pay dividends this time.
Then of course, there’s the young whipper snapper at his heels, Blake Hose…
Blake is one of our finest runners in the 50-100km category and he excels at this distance (64kms). Last year he ran the finest performance by an Aussie abroad in my opinion, finishing third at Transvulcania, one of the top races in the world, attended by some of the leading runners in the world. If you want to test your metal, then you go to Transvulcania, UTMB or Western States. That is the benchmark of where you are at globally…
- Luis Alberto Hernando
- Daniel Garcia Gomez
- Dakota Jones
- Zach Miller
- Timothy Olsen
Those are just some of the names young Blakey beat in that race and it propelled him onto the International stage as a runner to watch. Since then, he’s had a few issues with injury and illness that saw him pull from the Mont Blanc race a little while after Transvulcania. But Blake also has home advantage for this race, with digs in Bright, he’s able to train consistently on the course and their surrounds.
This is going to be a mighty tough one to call. If both runners are near their best, which let’s face it, if you’re down to race then you are going to be, then I can’t separate these two. Will the record go? If the above factors are in play i.e. both at their best, then yes, the record will go this year – but to whom, I cannot tell.
Whom else to watch…
As always, there’s a few others runners to keep an eye on, namely Matty Abel and Eric Holt should fill out the other podium place. Matty is a Sydney-based runner who will always be there or thereabouts. He’s won the Northburn 100km a race few times, as well as finishing top ten in the UTA50kms last year too.
Eric is a much-fancied runner, new to ultras and bursting onto the scene at the Hounslow Classic in October last year, finishing second to Ben Duffus. There are a lot of people that rate this Blue Mountains based runner, who certainly has a great deal of potential in the big mountain races. Watch this space is all we can say with Eric!
*Eric is no longer a starter.
In the women’s race…
While current record holder, Beth Cardelli isn’t racing this year, there is some good pedigree up front and like the men’s race, we think it’s going to be a two-horse race between the very much improved Lucy Bartholomew and Katherine Macmillan.
While Lucy is no stranger to the Victorian Alps, this will be her first time over the B2H course. She’s coming off the back of some good results, having bagged second at the inaugural Hounslow Classic behind Beth Cardelli and then a third place at the Tarawera Trail 50kms back in November last year.
Lucy has been under the watchful eye of one of the best trail female athletes in the world of late, Emelie Forsberg. This course will suit Lucy well and I think she’ll run very solidly here.
Katherine has been here and done that before, posting a high respectable 8:21 back in 2014. Since then, she’s raced a lot and perhaps the pick of her results last year being a very credible sixth place at TNF/UTA 100kms in a time of 12:21.
Katherine tends to start very conservatively, pushing very strongly in the latter stages. Indeed, back in 2014, I remember her passing me like a steam train on the climb out of Big River – she loves this type of terrain and excels on it.
It should be a very close race between these two ladies, and like the men’s race, I think a little too close to call.
However, there will be one or two other ladies who won’t let these two have it all their own way. Watch out for Maggie Jones, who finished just two minutes behind Lucy at Hounslow. Also in the mix will be Lucy Carter, fairly new to ultra running but with a couple of good results behind her, including a win at the Berry Long Run (70kms) in August last year in a time of 7:51.
Good luck to all runners racing this coming weekend. We hope the weather is kind to you all.
Who do you think will win?