Australia’s ‘Mr. Versatility’, Courtney Atkinson, gives TriRadar a video exclusive of the Xterra Asia-Pacific Championship course

2013 Xterra Great Ocean Road winner Courtney Atkinson (AUS) preps for the Xterra Asia-Pacific Championships on Saturday, April 26 [Xterra Australia | James Bell]

Courtney Atkinson (AUS) is putting his most recent triathlon race performances behind him and looking forward to getting back into nature and going off road at the Xterra Asia-Pacific Championships at Jervis Bay, New South Wales in Australia on 26 April.

After finishing up in London in 2012, the two-time Olympian blazed a trail in 2013 with wins at the inaugural Xterra Great Ocean Road and successfully stepped up in distance with a pair of Ironman 70.3 victories at Cairns and Cebu, as well as the ultimate distance at Koh Samui with a few mountain bike enduros and the Mark Webber Tasmanian Challenge adventure race thrown in to boot.

However, 2014 has not been so kind to the Gold Coast native with a DNF at Ironman 70.3 Geelong in February and a 17th-place finish at Ironman Asia-Pacific Championships in Melbourne in March – his first – and possibly last – career Ironman race. Needless to say, he is eager to get back off road and once again tackle Xterra.

“It’s been an interesting year so far,” Atkinson told TriRadar. “For me, Geelong was just a miserable day and I won’t even call that racing. Ironman in Melbourne was just an amazing experience, but not sure that distance is right for me. We will see what the future holds at that distance.

“That being said, I am very excited to get back into the woods and into a distance I feel very comfortable with.”

Atkinson, 34, is taking Jervis Bay seriously and understands that competition will be stiff. Including, 13-time Xterra champion and current Xterra Great Ocean Road champion Ben Allen (AUS), a man Atkinson beat at the Great Ocean Road last year by nearly four minutes.

“Ben Allen is an exceptional athlete and he proved that at this year’s Great Ocean Road in March,” said Atkinson “I have raced him on the road as well, and his performance at Koh Samui was impressive to say the least. I am not overlooking him at all and expect him to be a serious threat at Jervis Bay as after all this is his sport.”

Last week Atkinson flew into Sydney for a day of sponsorship meetings before heading down for a bit of a recon in the Nowra State Forest. Although TriRadar can’t give too much away about the course given it crosses private land, Atkinson shares his thoughts exclusively with TriRadar on what he expects come race day.

“I was able to get a good feel of the trail network and ride some of the particular single track sections that will be used known as the Condoo circuit,” Atkinson said. “In the days leading up to my visit, the area got dumped with a lot of rain and if this happens before the race it will make for one very tough MTB loop as the fire roads are rutted out and where they’re not, they are clay, which makes every pedal you take known to the legs.”

Atkinson on the ocean swim:

“The two 750m laps in the bay will be magic. I jumped in the water after the ride and I reckon – touch and go – the water to be 20C. Small little waves lapping on shore but it’s going to be flat unless a cyclone gets this far down the coast.”

Atkinson on the mountain bike:

“At an estimated 30km the feel of the course will change depending on how dry it is. If wet, it will be a very long slog just to get up to the top trail section from the beach; if dry, the fire roads should ride fast, although undulating, there are no significant climbs with the exception of a 200m beast about one kilometre from T2 – located in the heart of the forest.

“You’re going to save energy just getting off and flinging the bike over the shoulder and running up this one. There is lots of variety over the single track from the first section being super tight and slow, with log rolls and a little rock garden to the flowing circuit trails. In-between there are some newer but overgrown rough single tracks that link fire roads and could be more decisive than the final Condoo tracks when racing. I reckon this course will have something for everyone in it.”

Atkinson on the trail run:

“T2 is in the middle of nowhere and just pops up on you. The first section of the run is skinny new track, rough running underfoot, hard to follow. After a few kilometres, you encounter the same fire roads you travel into the forest from the bike. Undulating but heading slightly downhill all the way until you reach the sand – white soft sand! It’s going to be a killer at that point, for I’m guessing 800m or so, before finishing up on Main Street. One hell of a sprint finish but I doubt by that stage if the race isn’t blown apart right throughout the whole field.”

Overall, what does Atkinson think about the proposed Jervis Bay course compared to his experience at last year’s Great Ocean Road?

“Compared to Xterra Great Ocean Road this is another level of challenging and more difficult terrain,” he said. “Complete beginners may need to jump off the MTB a couple of times but it will be very rare.”

The official course will be open for pre-ride from 8:00am Thursday, 24 April and for running from 8:00am Friday, 25 April.