Road racing is back in a big way in Australia
2020 has been a year like no other. The most disrupted period the world has seen since the end of World War II, every corner of the globe has been affected by COVID. Tasmania thankfully, has suffered far less than most, and has now done what many would have considered unthinkable three months ago - staged a mass participation road race for over 1,000 people without the dark cloud of COVID hovering above.
It's hard to remember what 'normal' feels like - air travel has again become a novelty and shaking hands still seems like a sin. But for a couple of hours in Launceston this weekend, the world felt pretty close to how it felt in 2019 - not only for the absence of COVID, but because familiar faces were back dominating local races.
The half marathon started first, and had genuinely interesting match ups in both fields.
In the men's, the late withdrawal of Joel Tobin-White and Sam McEntee meant the lead pack would be culled to Brett Robinson, Ed Goddard, and Tom Do Canto - with a number of high calibre athletes chasing shortly behind.
The news that Milly Clark wouldn't be running meant it would be a two horse race in the women's - Melbourne's Andrea Seccafien up against South Aussie Jess Stenson.
The men's field split early - within 4km it was down to the main pack of 3, and it would remain that way for much of the race.
Behind the leaders, a pack of Riley Cocks, Archie Reid, and Tim Vincent were close behind. Dave Ridley was caught just off the back of the pack for a large part of the first half of the race and wasn't able to move up.
Meanwhile, Robinson and co. charged on, hovering around 2:50-55 per kilometre as they approached the turnaround.
Meanwhile in the women's race, Seccafien and Stenson had found a good group to run with - Seccafien keen to set her own pace up the front. Shortly after the turnaround (~13km) Seccafien broke away from Stenson and wouldn't be challenged again.
It was around the 16km mark that Robinson made his move, easing away from the chasing Goddard and Do Canto. The road back to Launceston had a slight headwind, which would have made Goddard's attempts to get back on to Robinson even harder. Do Canto, who spent most of the race in 3rd position, showed his experience - taking Goddard in the closing stages to finish second.
In the end, Robinson missed the Australian all-comers record by less than 30 seconds, finishing in 61:38. Do Canto finished in 62:12, while Goddard recorded a big PR with a 62:16.
Andrea Seccafien powered home to win the women's race in 71:38, from Stenson in 72:27, and Gold Coast youngster Katinka Von Elsner-Wellsteed in 77:41.
The Launnie 10 (Launnie? or Launy? Anyway...) has a reputation for being a fast and highly competitive 10km every year. Normally held mid-year in cooler temps, we were treated to a perfect December morning and great conditions for fast running.
The men's field was headlined by 2018 winner Jack Rayner, while the women's field was stacked - Sinead Diver, Gen Gregson, Rose Davies, Nat Rule, Izzi Batt-Doyle, and more. Jaryd Clifford was also in the race, having a tilt at the T13 world record of 29:38.
Jack Rayner led the men's race from the gun with a 2:37 first km, followed by a 2:48 second km.
Behind Jack, Jordy Williamsz led a group that included Kieran Tall, Andre Waring, and Liam Adams.
The women's race was a much closer affair - the lead women running as a pack for the first half of the race, with Batt-Doyle, Gregson, and Diver all doing work at the front.
Up front, Jack was rolling. The pace had settled slightly but his gap continued to grow. Jaryd Clifford on the other hand ran into trouble - an upset stomach leading to vomiting at the 5km mark and again at the 9km mark.
Big Jack was never challenged on the road back home, taking another road win, this time in 28:48, 68 seconds ahead of Jordy Williamsz - Liam Adams taking a fantastic 3rd in 29:00.
The women's race was a tighter finish, but ultimately Gen Gregson proved her talent at the 10k distance yet again - winning her 4th 10k race in a row, finishing in 31:59, one second ahead of Rose Davies (32:00). Izzi Batt-Doyle was 3rd, continuing her great run of form.