Now in its 10th year of running, competitors headed to Mount Buller’s bike park on the weekend for racing over 3 days. From XC racing through to downhill, enduro and even an 16″ wheel race there was something for everyone as 500 riders competed across the multiple disciplines. Weather across the days was dry, sunny and the trails dusty and fast.

Big names in enduro Chris Panozzo, James Hall, Ben McIlroy, Paul van der Ploeg, Sian A’Hern were on a mission to lay down some good times and have some fun in the atmosphere of a big social event. Our guy on the ground David Ludenia, 2017 National enduro series winner was there on our Instagram story takeover having a bit of fun and also there to put out some good race runs, and plenty of spectators there to watch events like the Pump Track challenge and 16″ Dual Slalom.

Racing across the 3 days would span XC and Downhill on Day 1, Gravity Enduro and Super-D on Day 2 along with Pump Track and the 16″ dual slalom, then the Outlaw/Copperhead All Mountain trophy on Day 3. For the fastest, the title of Gravity God was there for the taking , with the fastest combined times across the Downhill, Enduro and All Mountain races factoring into the overall fastest rider title across the different categories.

Day 1 – XC and Downhill

A 30km XC race got underway on Day 1, across the Stonefly and Corn Hill courses as a 30km circuit. Grueling it out to the end, the Men’s Elite winner was Brendan Johnston ahead of Reece Tucknott in 2nd and Cameron Ivory third. Women’s honours went to Kathryn McInerney with Karen Hill in 2nd and Sarah Tucknott in 3rd.

The Downhill down the classic ABOM course started with seeding around lunchtime and then racing in the late afternoon. In the downhill, with downhill legend Sian A’Hern racing she was going to definitely be the one to beat in Female Elite, on the male elite side the enduro crew of Chris Panozzo and Ben McIlroy were definitely going to use their endurance and skill to push for the win.

Sunrise on Mt Buller Shimano Bike Buller Festival about to start
The lifts were spinning all weekend – Pic Mandy Lamont
Brendan Johnston, XC winner on course in the XC race – Pic Mandy Lamont
Ben McIlroy in the ABOM downhill – Pic Mandy Lamont
David Ludenia when he wasn’t busy doing our stories from the event – Pic Mandy Lamont
Sian A’Hern – Pic Mandy Lamont

In Downhill female elite, Sian A’Hern dominated both seeding and the race, seeding first with a 4:05 and bettering that time with a 4:03 in the final race run, beating Rachel Hore with a 4:14 and Anastasia Tukavkin with 4:28.

“Being fitter then I’ve ever been, stronger in my lower body and finding training that really works for me has really helped.” – Sian

Amongst the Male elite riders in the downhill, Chris Panozzo aboard his new Cannondale won both seeding and timed racing, with a 3:33 final race run. Derby EWS U21 winner Ben McIlroy improved on his 4th place seeding run to take 2nd in the timed race, and Darcy Wilkinson rounded out the top 3, improving on his 6th place seeding run.

In the young riders,  Victorian pinner Jack Hewish came first in U19 (3:43) in front of Tali Lane Welsh (3:45) and Jacob Frauenfelder (3:47).

After the Downhill ran the 16″ dual slalom and pump track races, putting on a show for the spectators and other racers.

Dual Slalom action – Pic Mandy Lamont
16″ Dual Slalom winner Hayden Fletcher – Pic Mandy Lamont
Pump track pursuit – Pic Mandy Lamont

Day 2: Gravity Enduro and Super-D

Clear skies again greeted riders on Day 2 for the Gravity Enduro race in the morning and the Super-D in the afternoon. Would Sian and Chris continue their dominating streak?

Morning Light – Pic Matt Rousu
The Pro wave waits for the start of the Gravity Enduro
David Ludenia – Pic Mandy Lamont
Sian A’Hern – Pic Mandy Lamont
The Gravity Enduro included a few staircases such as this one for a bit of urban downhill flair

In the Gravity Enduro, the Pro Men’s division was taken by the unstoppable Chris Panozzo, with Darcy Wilkinson 2nd and David Ludenia 3rd,Darcy Wilkinson also scored enough points to take away the overall title in the Victorian Enduro Tour for Elite Men. Taking Pro Women’s top honours was Sian A’Hern, Sarah Tucknott in 2nd and Rachel Hore in 3rd.

Sian told us “I do base most of my riding around downhill, racing World Cups around the globe, but I also do enjoy some enduro. I have not raced many but every time I do it’s quite challenging but very rewarding. I was surprised to actually have won by over a minute from the other girls, I had fatigued quite a bit by the end of the race and made two mistakes but other than that it was an awesome race, and was so great to ride with the other girls all day!”.

U19’s was won by Jack Hewish, sealing up the win and taking 1st place U19 in the Victorian Enduro Series.

Then came the Super-D, descending over 1100m over 12 km from the top of Baldy, challenging riders fitness and skill at speed.

SPD Mt Buller Super D – Pic Matt Rousu
SPD Super D Dave Ludenia, Chris Panozzo, Ben Mcilroy descending Baldy – Pic Matt Rousu
Sian A’hern on the last stage

XC National Champ Cameron Ivory showed he’s also alright when it comes to gravity racing, taking the men’s Super-D win (34:57).  Chris Panozzo (35:53) and David Ludenia (36:06) bringing in 2nd and 3rd place results.

Day 3 – DHaRCO Outlaw All-Mountain

On Day 3, the DHaRCO Outlaw All Mountain Trophy race was run, this was over the Outlaw and Copperhead tracks, with dropoffs, rocky switchbacks and high speed open sections. Being dry the course was fast and dusty.

The race was the last chance for points towards the Gravity God trophy so it was hotly contested.

Jack Hayhoe gets some airtime in the DHaRCO outlaw race – Pic Mandy Lamont
Ben McIlroy – Pic Matt Rousu
Ben Mickelburough styling. Pic Matt Rousu
U19 winner Jack Hewish – Pic Matt Rousu
Darcy Wilkinson – Pic Matt Rousu

In Elite Male, Jeremy Hamilton won with a time of 12:03, Chris Panozzo in 2nd place with a 12:10 and Murray Stephens in 3rd with 12:28. Female elite honours went to Sian Ahern with a 14:17 followed by Rachel Hore with 14:35 and another good result from Annelie Marquardt with a 15:25.

Gravity Gods Trophy

The points scored by Chris, Jeremy, Sian, Rachel and Annelie would prove critical to their result in the Gravity God overall trophy. Our own David Ludenia came in with the 3rd place, when he wasn’t busy Instagramming everything for us he was definitely putting down some good times, only being behind Chris by a minute and 36 seconds overall!

Elite Male Gravity Gods overall 

1 Chris Panozzo 50:42
2 Jeremy Hamilton 52:00
3 David Ludenia 52:18

Elite Female Gravity Gods overall

1 Sian A’Hern 1:01:28
2 Rachel Hore 1:03:40
3 Annelie Marquardt 1:06:50

Gravity Gods female 3rd overall Annelie Marquardt – Pic Mandy Lamont
Sian A’Hern – Pic Mandy Lamont
Top 3 elite women Sian A’Hern, Rachel Hore, Annelie Marquardt

It feels super great to achieve what I did today, winning in the 3 events I participated in. Downhill, Enduro and All Mountain, and taking out the Gravity God. I am only just getting back into racing after injury so I am happy to be seeing improvements every race.
– Sian

Gravity God 3rd place David Ludenia – Pic Matt Rousu
Gravity Gods runner up Jeremy Hamilton – Pic Mandy Lamont
Gravity God champion Chris Panozzo – Pic Mandy Lamont
Top 3 male elite Chris Panozzo, Jeremy Hamilton, David Ludenia
“I’m still getting used to the new bike, still working through setup’s and how the bike responds to change, both from rider input and mechanical adjustments. The weekend ran really smoothly to be honest, the organisation was great and the weather played its part, which meant we could all relax and go about the three days in our time. Hope everyone else had just as much fun!” – Chris Panozzo
After the race we got Chris’s and Sian’s take on the overall atmosphere of the event.
“It was really chilled, although there was many events on during the weekend it never felt hectic. I raced four events over three the days and one kind of flowed into the other. It was a good weekend.” – Chris
“I found bike Buller quite different to most races I’ve ever raced. I thought it was awesome, seeing everyone having such a great time and having such a massive variety of racers from Pro to some people’s first ever race. With there being so many disciplines of riding over the 3 days it was great to bring everyone together. ” – Sian 
 We look forward to the next running of the event for 2019!

Full results and timing are here:

Thanks to Rapid Ascent for organising the event and providing media resources!

Photos are credit Mandy Lamont and Matt Rousu. You can check out their gallery here for viewing and sales:  And you can see more of their work on Instagram – Lamont Mag Matt Rousu Photography

Thanks to Steve Leeder for some on the ground assistance with interviews and to David Ludenia for the Instagram story takeover over the weekend.