WORLD champion Jason English has firmed as the favourite to claim the inaugural Fairfax Media Evocities MTB Series following an impressive opening round solo male open victory in Orange.
Completing 10 laps of the Ginja Ninja 250 at the Kinross State Forest in a time of four hours, 16 minutes and 52.60 seconds - an average of 25 minutes, 41.29 seconds per lap - English edged a stacked field to claim a defining victory ahead of Edward McDonald (10 laps, 4:31.6.72) and Andrew Lloyd (nine laps, 4:06.20.34) on Sunday afternoon.
Being a five-time world solo 24-hour champion, pedigree alone suggests English is the man to beat in the 2015 series.
His performance on Sunday hasn’t dented that notion.
The Port Macquarie-based champion signalled his intention to ride in four of the remaining six legs of the series - the Wylde Western Sydney 7 hour, the Bathurst 4 hour-6 hour, the Dubbo 300 min and the Stan’s No Tubes Tamworth 5 hour - and admitted it was going to be seriously tough to claim a series victory.
“I’ll try and do the legs that are five or six hours away,” he smiled, adding he is set to miss the Albury and Wagga Wagga legs of the series.
“I’m looking forward to doing as many as I can, it should be good to see how the competition changes throughout the season as more people jump on board.”
English - who takes home $1000 following his win in the solo male open category - said he was thrilled with the concept, and added the standard of competition would only explode following the “seriously” impressive trails at Kinross State Forest.
“It’s hard to know who’s going to be here until you turn up on the start line, I guess,” English said.
“I was anticipating a few more riders in the elite category, but you look at the trails and they’re amazing ... I was quite surprised.
“If I had a job out here and could convince my wife to come out here we’d definitely make the move to Orange.
“Seriously, I was surprised at how good the trails are out here.”
The first-time Ginja Ninja 250 entrant said the flow of the Orange trails suited his style of racing, with the undulating nature of the course ideal for solo riders.
“I rode one lap [on Saturday] just to check it out, I had to go out for a second,” he said, enthused by the nature of the trail.
“I’m very glad I came out here. It was good fun.”