It was a case of the old and the new as the 2023 AusCycling Marathon National Champions were crowned in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales on Sunday.
Brent Rees won his first ever Elite national marathon title while Peta Mullens added another green and gold jersey to the title she won back in 2016.
Cold, wet and greasy conditions were the order of the morning when the 17-man field headed out for their 103km race around the Pomigalana course.
It didn’t take long for a lead group of seven – which included defending champion Brendan Johnston, last year’s silver medalist Tasman Nankervis, Brent Rees and Scott Bowden – to break away from the main pack.
By the second lap the lead group had narrowed, and it would be Johnston and Nankervis, who recently won the Seven Gravel Race, that started to put the foot down on the climbs.
Rees would be the only one who would stick with the duo heading into the final lap.
“The group was quite big, and it kept coming back together and eventually they kind of ground everyone down,” Rees commented post-race.
Johnston led Nankervis and Rees onto the velodrome with spectators set to be treated to a sprint finish after nearly four and a half hours out on course.
Nankervis had done his homework, practicing his sprinting pre-race in anticipation for the final few meters on Sunday.
And it would be in the final 20 the decisive move would be made.
“I honestly didn’t have a plan. I know Tas had some bad luck with the final corner last year, so let them duel it out and hopefully nab a sneaky one which I got away with.”
Rees punched the air after thrusting the wheel across the line for a historic win.
“That feels incredible, can’t really believe,” the Gold Coast rider said.
Nankervis again took the silver with Johnston the bronze.
A new Elite women’s marathon champion would be crowned in 2023, but first this year’s entrants would have to negotiate more than 100km to earn the green and gold jersey.
The small field would see Courtney Sherwell the first to press the pace during the opening stages along with Armidale’s Katherine Hosking.
Mullens, who won bronze at this venue last year struggled to keep pace with the leaders early on.
“When I came through the first lap I thought, well I’ll do an effort and see if I could put myself in the bike race,” the Bendigo native said.
Sherwell’s hopes and day were ended by a puncture, while Mullens was just getting started.
“Had a couple of guys come past us and I really liked their speed through the single track and just followed them the last two laps then suffered the last bit on my own.”
Hosking was unable to take the fight to the former champion as she broke away to finish in a time of 5:14:19.58 more than six minutes ahead of Hosking in second and Elizabeth Nuspan.
It was an emotional Mullens who shed tears in her post-race interview, seven years since she last took the top step at the Marathon National Championships in Tasmania.
“It’s been such just a rough couple of weeks and couple of days I didn’t think I’d be able to start and everyone else believed in me.
“I’m really happy with this one,” she said.
The Junior categories faced 83km out on course, and it was Caelan Shawyer that would take out the men’s title by more than two minutes to Atticus Nowlan-Crisp and Cohen Jessen.
Queensland’s Ella Menigoz claimed gold ahead of Sophie Wade and April Foster.
More than 200 riders competed across the elite and age categories.