The 2022 Australian National Gravel Championships were held over the weekend in the stunning Noosa Hinterland as part of the Noosa Enduro weekend. The 110km course included approximately 65% gravel roads, 25% sealed roads and 10% trails and tracks and measured 1770m of vertical climbing to really put riders to the test.
Having raced and won the Noosa Enduro 100 on the saturday, Brendan was unsure if he'd be able to back up for sunday's National Championships, "Saturday’s 100km marathon on the MTB really became a really hard race towards the end, I was only able to escape from Cam (Wright) on the last main climb and obviously had to ride very hard to the finish to hold him off. Winning Saturday I was really happy, I was sure though I had probably gone to deep."
Starting at around 7:30am in the morning, a strong field of 26 rolled out featuring high calibre riders from the National Road Series, and the who's who of marathon mountain bike racing in Australia. A group of 17 came through the first checkpoint, with a sole rider leadin just a head. Johnston was playing the long game, staying hidden in the bunch and using as little energy as possible to save his legs.
The group stayed mostly together coming into the second checkpoint, having only dropped one rider. But it was between the second and third checkpoint where the most damage was done, Brendan and Tasman Nankervis managing to sneak off the front, leaving a group of only 4 chasing and Matthew Bird stuck in no mans land between them.
As the riders came through the last checkpoint before the finish, Bird had managed to fight his way back to the leaders making a lead group of 3 and the chase had grown to 6 - but still just under 3minutes off the pace of the leaders.
After battling it out in the mud, over a long 110km - it all came down to a 20m sprint where Johnston took victory over of Matthew Bird by a mere 1.6 seconds and Tasman coming in at +6.6seconds
After his victory, Brendan had this to say, "On Sunday I knew I was on the back foot and rode a very defensive and tactical race which ultimately secured me the win in a very exciting race that went to the line in a three up sprint. I’m so pleased to double up and prove myself over the two disciplines back to back"
For full results from the Championships, visit the results page on the official event website here.