It’s a jammed-packed start to the ultra calendar in Victoria, what with Bogong to Hotham last weekend, we have the infamous Two Bays Ultra (56km) and 28km races. This is one of Victoria’s biggest races with around 1,000 runners taking to the trails across both events. Not to say that the 28km racers are any less worthy, but we’re an ultra news site, so we’re going to focus our attention on the 56km ultra and the contenders for the crown this weekend down on the Mornington Peninsular.
Race director Rohan Day has fed the Ultra168 prediction machine with a number of names and I’ll make an attempt to inform you of what the regurgitation means in the form of a bit of analysis and insight.
In Rohan’s own words, the ladies race is going to be hotly contested, so we’ll begin there in what promises to be a cracking race up front. With no Kirstin Bull this year, the gate is open for a new champion, but who will carry the crown?
The big names flying out of the machine include Kellie Emmerson, fresh from her 35km win at Bogong last weekend, Tash Fraser and Kylee Woods.
We’ll begin with last year’s runner-up, Natasha Fraser, who finished just seven minutes behind Kirstin. Seven minutes might sound like quite a bit, but to finish seven minutes behind Kirstin is pretty close if you want my opinion, so Natasha has to start out as one of the big favourites. The previous year she ran even closer with about six minutes gap I believe. She’s also been on the podium for the last three years on the trot, including two second places, and with a sub 5 hour time last year many will wonder if this year is her time to move up a place.
Of course, Kellie Emmerson is well-known to many on the Victorian racing circuit. She didn’t race Two Bays last year, but did the previous year (2015), where she finished third behind Natasha Fraser and Kirstin Bull. Where it gets interesting however is trying to predict what kind of times Kellie and Natasha will run. Both are clearly going to run faster and break five hours this time, which Natasha did last year. In 2015 Kellie ran a 5:09 at Two Bays and that year ran 9:18 at Surf Coast. Last year she ran a 9:03 at Surf Coast, which I think will place her very close to Natasha’s 4:58 from last year, possibly better. Allowing for improvements in Natasha’s time too and we could see two ladies dueling it out around the 4:52 – 4:55 mark.
Of course, I could be incredibly wrong, which I am sometimes (last weekend)… but not often 🙂
The other big name on the ladies list is Kylee Woods who finished third here last year. She finished second behind Kellie at Surf Coast in a time of 9:35. In 2016 she also won the You Yangs 50km and finished just off the podium at the UTA50km in fourth. A solid contender whose every chance to make it another podium at Two Bays this weekend.
In the mens there’s probably a slightly more clearcut potential winner here, but who knows what could happen on race day. One of our picks for Australian ultra runner of the year (3rd place), Francesco Ciancio lines up again for his third Two Bays ultra and after winning everything under the sun last year, it will be difficult not seeing him win here for the first time. Last year he ran a 4:17 to finish second behind Dion Finocchiaro, but with no Dion this year, the stage is set for Francesco to open up his 2017 racing account with a nice trophy here.
Hot on his heels will be Ross Hopkins a consistent performer on the Viccy trails with a fifth in this race last year, second in the Marysville 50km ultra and sixth at the Buffalo Stampede ultra too. A good bet for a podium this time round.
Described by some (on Facebook) as the grandpa of Victorian trail racing(!), Kevin Mannix is back again, finishing consistently in the 4:3x at Two Bays and regularly nudging around the top five. He was also a former winner of this event back in the first edition in 2011.
Justin Scholz is back for another crack after finishing in the top ten last year with a sub five performance, as is Kevin Muller, fresh off his win at Coast2Kosci. Having just run 240kms four weeks ago, it will be debatable as to how fresh Kevin will be, but he finished 6th here last year with a 4:48 and I wouldn’t bet against him securing another top ten placing this time around.
Lastly, keep an eye on Joel Fitzgerald. Fifth at the Buffalo Stampede ultra last year as well as sixth at the Marysville 50km ultra too. Certainly a good bet for a top ten placing as well.
Best of luck to all of those racing this weekend, I’m sure it will be a cracker as usual.