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International off-road specialists and multi-time Xterra champions Ben Allen (AUS) and Jacqui Slack (GBR) share a few tips for success ahead of this weekend’s Australian TreX Nationals at Lake Crackenback.

Jacqui, Ben 

 SNOWY MOUNTAINS, NSW—With more than 20 combined Xterra wins between them, as well as the 2016 Victorian TreX state title already on the top of this year’s palmarés, few athletes know more about off-road triathlon than 17-time winner Ben Allen (AUS) and 9-time champion Jacqui Slack (GBR).

The endurance sports power couple enter this weekend’s (27-28 February) Australian TreX Nationals as clear cut favourites to make it two TreX wins in a row for the 2015/16 season when they line up in the elite men’s and women’s start line on Saturday at Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa in the heart of the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales.

Aside from the elites, the race also serves as the only Australian qualification race for the 2016 ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships (18-20 November) for the under-23s, under-19s and paratriathletes, with up to six spots up for grabs to represent the nation in each elite category. 

The race is open to all competitors aged 15 years and over, however, to be eligible for Australian Championship status and awards, competitors must be over 18 and be full financial members of Triathlon Australia (TA).

The X-Tri championship long course features a 1500m swim in the crisp, crystal waters of Lake Crackenback, followed by an awe-inspiring two-lap, 30km mountain bike course over a sculpted flowing single track. A challenging 10km trail run to the finish completes the third and final leg of the off-road triathlon. 

Shorter distance races for juniors (10-15yrs) and Dirt Kids (7-10yrs) are also on offer, as well as a teaser (200m / 6km / 1km) for those interested in a beginner’s event.

With a $10,000 prize purse – as well as the green and gold national stripes – up for grabs, the Australian X-Tri Championship is attracting a who’s who of off-road endurance racing, including TreX ambassadors and Victorian state champions Ben Allen (AUS) and Jacqui Slack (GBR), as well as respective rivals Brodie Gardner (AUS) and Renata Bucher (SUI).

In2Adventure caught up with the two TreX race ambassadors and founders of B&J Racing to pick their brain and get a few tips for success at this year’s Aussie nationals – and for any other upcoming off-road event such as the upcoming Queensland TreX Nationals (16-17 April) and the Worlds:

In2Adventure: What to do if you’re not confident on mountain bike course?

Allen and Slack: It's always a good option to ride the course beforehand so you know what to expect.  You can save a lot of time knowing where you can pass others, or sections where you may need to get off and run if necessary.  Riders generally ride a good line, so follow the tracks already laid out in the dirt. Always look 10 meters ahead so you know what’s coming, and try to relax and enjoy the trails, and try not to be too nervous or tense.

I2A: Enabling more experienced riders to pass…

A&S: The In2adventure Aussie Cross Tri champs is pretty much all single track which is fantastic, however you may need to pass slower riders or allow the faster riders to pass so everyone gets a fair race.  If you are coming up to pass someone give him or her a heads up and shout, “can I pass when you’re ready please?”  At a safe spot the front rider must move over to the left or the right to allow the faster rider to pass quickly but safely.  Everyone is in a race out there but be courteous, and if you are a slower rider allow the faster rider to pass as soon as possible. Always be polite, even in a race manners can go a long way.  

I2A: You must attend the race briefing…

A&S: Attending the race briefing is a must! It’s the athlete’s responsibility to know the rules and know the course.  We would hate for you to get a disqualification for not knowing the rules of the race. It’s the National Championships and rules are in place for a reason, so make sure you know them.  Any questions or queries you may have can be brought up before the race briefing or ask us if you see us around. Or reach out to us over Twitter or Facebook we’re more than happy to help.

I2A: Your feet are going get wet and muddy – period!

A&S: That’s why we call it cross triathlon.  Of course you’re going to get a little wet and muddy – it’s all part of the adventure.  Socks for the run are a must, because the course has a water crossing every lap and socks will help to prevent your feet moving around in your shoes and getting blisters.  The trail run has lots of steep ups and downs, and twisty sections therefore socks and a sturdy shoe with tight laces will be to your advantage.  

I2A: Race within your abilities…

A&S: Know your limits! It’s better to take corners or technical sections a little slower than to risk a crash, which may slow you down much longer than actually being more careful. Follow the course as it’s intended to be ridden and run, don’t cut corners, short cut the course or avoid obstacles even if you’re tired this will result in a disqualification.

I2A: Don't go out too hard…

A&S: Don’t go out super hard or fast. Pace yourself, it’s a long race – two and a half hours for most people, so ensure to have enough energy left to cross the finish line with a smile.  Ensure you take on plenty of water and a little food. Anything over 90 minutes of exercise requires some sort of fuelling. We like to use gels as they are easy to digest and you can tape them to your handlebars, but a banana or some dried fruit is also great.

I2A:  30km on a mountain bike is very different to that on the road…

A&S: Mountain biking is very different to road cycling as you face many challenges – it maybe negotiating obstacles, attacking in and out of sharp corners or riding up and down steep climbs.  It’s important to be ready for anything as more can go wrong so be prepared for mechanicals or getting off your bike and running. Everyone comes back with a story to tell so don’t let these things prevent you from finishing. It’s the name of the game; it’s all part of the adventure.  Between us, we’ve competed in over a 100 cross triathlon races and I guarantee that when you’ve crossed the finish line you will be hooked. The challenges you will face are some of the most rewarding things you will ever accomplish.  

About In2Adventure:

In2Adventure is Asia-Pacific’s premier adventure event specialists. With a full calendar of national events scheduled throughout Australia, including adventure races, cross triathlon, XC Mountain Bike, trail runs and corporate events, In2Adventure fully embraces all things ‘off road’ and ‘off the beaten track’ and offers a unique, individual experience for all ages and skill levels. For more information visit In2Adventure here.

Upcoming Events (2016):

               Australian Cross Triathlon Championships (2016 Worlds Qualifier) – Snowy Mountains, NSW, 27-28 February 2016

               Mountain Designs Adventure Race Australia – NSW, 20 March 2016

Photo Credit: In2Adventure