South Coast cyclist Toby Stewart landed his first Tumut Three-Hour MTB title on Sunday at his second attempt.
Stewart rode his way to third back in 2015, but bettered that finish this time around when he completed eight laps of the tight-turning track in a time of 3:06:05.
He finished more than 18 minutes ahead of his nearest rival, Kelsey Boreham, who was the only other rider to complete eight laps of the circuit in the Tumut State Forest in the allotted time.
Stewart rode his way to the front just metres from the start on a steep ascent, and never relinquished the lead.
He quickly broke away from the rest of the field, and remained out of sight for the next three hours.
Stewart admitted he was a bit surprised to get away so early.
“I didn’t have a chance to do a practice lap, so was hoping to be in a group, maybe with a local rider who could guide me around,” Stewart said.
“I didn’t expect to get away, but once I did it was a case of just putting my head down and getting into it.”
Stewart’s win came despite a recent focus away from the trails.
He’s been training largely on the road as part of the Phoenix Racing Collective Outfit in Canberra, preparing for the 228km Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic on May 11.
He rides about 300-500km a week from his base in Pambula.
“All my training is currently geared towards road racing,” Stewart said. “I was looking for a race before Grafton to see how my legs would hold up, and decided to head to Tumut.”
He found the course challenging but enjoyable.
“It’s a pretty raw course, with some rocky parts. My wrists were about to cave in by the end of the race!
“You have to be pretty smart about how you tackle it and try to keep things as smooth as possible.
“It’s also a pretty tight course and was pretty loose and dry until riders had completed a few laps and the track started to be down a bit.
While his focus is currently on road cycling, Stewart predicts he’ll devote more time to mountain bike events in the future, and hopes to return to Tumut next year to defend his title.
“Road cycling is great, but I’ve been mountain biking for years and have a soft spot for it,” he said.
“Tumut is a great event, well-organised, and I love coming there. “It’s a bit of an under-rated race really.”