This weekend sees the third running of the Hounslow Classic in the upper Blue Mountains. Last year we dubbed this race, pound for pound, the toughest ultra in Australia and for good reason, there’s around 4,500m of climbing in the 68kms course. Add to this the way in which you get that elevation and the gradients on the climbs too, many of which are just steps and we all know what steps mean – an average gradient of around 25-30% for the most part.
And you can’t just be anybody who turns up to the start line for this race. You need to show that you’ve raced before, and with a 40% DNF rate, these are not your average Joe Blows turning up for a stroll around the mountains. Perhaps the most unfortunate thing about the Hounslow Classic is the restricted numbers Mel and Sean Greenhill have to adhere to – this is such a stunning place to run it needs to be shared with as many people as possible.
So who’s going to feature on the podiums this weekend? We’ll break from tradition slightly this week and begin with men’s race. The big showdown for me is the return of two Kiwi residents, Danny Garrett and Martin Kern. There’s not much that separates these two when they race and testimony to this was the barely six minutes gap at Ultra Easy way back in January earlier this year, which saw Danny just beat Martin.
Danny has a slight advantage in that he finished second here last year, so will have some course knowledge. Martin to his credit finished a fantastic seventh at UTA back in May too. It will surely be a close battle between these two once again.
Victorian Joel Fitzgerald will likely give these two boys a run for their money and if on song, could even take out the win. He’s had a very solid 2017 so far with fourth at the Two Bays Ultra and fourth at Bogong to Hotham too. A highly competitive runner with lots of experience across both the faster, flatter ultras as well as the more mountainous ones too.
Finally, Andy Lee a Blue Mountains local and former 6ft track and UTA winner. Andy’s heart is made of steel and never say die. Expect him to feature in the top five for sure.
The top ten looks to be pretty competitive in the men’s race, so keep an eye out for:
- Adam Clarke – 3:49 6ft track 2015
- Baden Chapple – 8th at Buffalo Stampede 2017
- Daniel Oehm – Won Alpine Challenge 100km 2016
- Grant Denmeade – 5th at Bogong to Hotham 2017
- Joseph Dorph – 3rd at Hounslow 2016
- Richard Banks – 2nd at Yurrebilla 2016, 3:47 6ft Track 2015
In the Hounslow Classic ladies race, the field is much lighter in terms of numbers, but the title looks likely to be a shot between Ingrid Donald and Isobel Ross. Ingrid Donald was third at the Alpine Challenge 60km and third also at the Wilsons Promontory 60 km this year.
Isobel Ross recently won the Brisbane track ultra just the other weekend as well as finishing fifth at the Buffalo Stampede this year too. Given Isobel’s recent track exploits, we might see Ingrid pip her to the post if she’s ready and primed.
Keep an eye on Cathy Duffy for a sneaky podium finish too. An improving runner with every race, she bagged fifth place here last year and could well be in for a shout at the top placings.