The Willo | Sparrow Hill ACT | 28.02.2021

Make every race count.

Rocky Trail core belief and promise.

Join us for the 11th Edition of The Willo in 2021.
This is a marathon race unlike any other.

James ‘Willo’ Williamson

The Willo Marathon is a one day event celebrating the life of mountain bike champion James Williamson, who died in his sleep from an undiagnosed heart condition in March 2010 whilst competing in an international MTB stage race. James was 26 years old and will always be remembered as a top-level XCO and XCM rider. He was passionate about the sport in every way, as well as being an Australian and World 24 hour champion.

Founded by Meg Patey, Willo’s aunt and supported by his best friends and riding mates, the Willo race is now managed by Rocky Trail Entertainment under Meg’s patronage.

The Willo has established itself as one of the top mountain bike marathons on the Australian cycling racing calendars and it has become an annual reminder to all riders of the joys of mountain biking as well as the impact James had on the sport.

RACE FORMAT

Every race participant will be instantly taken by the relaxed and friendly nature of the race, which in fact does reflect on James and the camaraderie that mountain biking brings for all.

“We just wanted to do something to continue his energy and spirit, so we started this event. It’s been quite a lot of work, but I really enjoyed it – it’s time for me to step back and I really look forward to continue being a part of the race as a patron and rider. With Juliane and Martin and their team I have found good people who will take this event into its next decade and keep James’ legacy going.”

Meg Patey

The race circuit is a 20-25km loop at Sparrow and Kowen Forests in Canberra and there are various distance classifications across adult and junior age groups, plus fun kids races for little riders in the event centre.

Location

Originally based on the Southern Highlands in NSW and James’ home track at Wingello, the Willo is for now based in Canberra. The Wingello trails are still badly damaged from the 2019-20 summer bushfires and still not safe to use. So this will be a lap-based classic marathon race and feature the popular mountain bike network in the Sparrow Hill and Kowen Forests in Canberra featuring a race track loaded with singletrail goodness.

Race distances

The event offers three racing distances and a special junior course.

Additional classifications

KOM and QOM reward
eBikes welcome
Singlespeeders, come!
Fun race for small kids.

For many young athletes this race will continue to provide the opportunity to experience their first thrill of racing. A special junior short-cource race introduces the pinners to racing accompanied by experienced mountain bikers.

THE WILLO LEGACY

The Willo Junior Development Program was set up in honour of James Williamson by his aunt Meg Patey as part of the event lead-up activities to the annual Willo Marathon. It is now managed by Rocky Trail Entertainment under their Rocky Trail Academy portfolio and aim at fostering the grass roots development of young mountain bikers inspired by James’ legacy. The annual skills clinics have been hosted by Ride Technics under the lead coach Dylan Cooper, one of James’ best friends as well as riding and racing buddies.

“It’s about teaching them about how to find out who they are and how to approach life, because that’s what James was and that’s what he would have wanted”.

Meg Patey

We are proud that all the key event sponsors, supporters and volunteers will stay involved and we are committed to continue one of the key components of The Willo, which is offering junior development opportunities for regional kids.

The Willo will always be celebrating the memory of a great man and Rocky Trail Entertainment will make sure that the future of this inspiring event will be bright.

Destination & Plan your trip

Check out what other events are on that weekend here! Iconic national attractions; riding Mount Stromlo’s bike trails; sipping our cool-climate Shiraz. Canberra offers the peak experience. It’s the best of Australia, brought together for you.

Accommodation

The Statesman Hotel is our accommodation partner in Canberra. Find out more details here.

Get ready!

Race Format

How the race works and volunteer opportunities

Categories

Overview of adult and junior entry fees and categories

Map & Venue

Race track map, event services and venue information

Skills Clinics

Find out all about our Willo Junior Development & Skills Clinics

Willo News

Photos from 2020

Jersey

  • Cost: $85 per unit (XC jersey or Gravity shirt)

This is the draft design for the 2021 owayo jersey, which you will be able to pre-order when you sign up for the race online. With Covid-19 delays and expected logistics challenges in early 2021, we expect that we can mail the jerseys out in late March/early April 2021.

Martin Wisata: Rocky Trail Race Director and owayo ambassador (Photo: BeMC, Belgium)

About James

James was born on June 1st 1983. He lived in the Southern Highlands and attended St Paul’s School, Moss Vale, and Chevalier College. As a child, James spent many hours on bikes. His life was transformed when, at the age of 17, he completed a three-week bike ride with his uncle, from Adelaide to Berrima. James loved it. On his return, he joined the local bike club, and never looked back. James excelled in mountain biking and regularly competed in many races held all over Australia.

James won the Sydney Solo 12 Hour race in 2002 at just 19 years of age. James went on to win many eight and twelve-hour races, before attempting his first solo 24 hour Race in 2005. One year later, he became the 2006 Australian Solo 24 Hour Mountain Bike Champion. In 2008 he took out the World Solo 24 Hour Mountain Bike Championship in Canada. He was 24 years old.

Editorial career
After leaving school, James completed a Degree in Communication and Public Relations at Canberra University. He wrote extensively about the events and the people involved in the sport and in 2007 James became editor of Enduro magazine. Enduro magazine is published five times each year, and covers all aspects of mountain biking with a focus on endurance riding. The editorship role enabled James to communicate his love of mountain biking to a wider audience. His editorials were particularly memorable as they effortlessly captured the spirit of mountain biking in a profound and unforgettable way.

March 2010
In 2010 James realized his dream to race the Cape Epic, a seven-stage mountain bike race in South Africa. He completed Stages 1 and 2 with his friend and riding partner Shaun Lewis. Early in the morning of 23 March 2010, before the start of stage 3, James died in his sleep (from an previously un-diagnosed heart condition).

The legacy
James Williamson will be remembered for the huge impact he had on the mountain bike world, both on and off the bike, in such a short period of time. His enthusiasm and passion or the sport, and his engaging personality endeared him to many. Although he was a world champion, he never let this alter his love and enjoyment for riding, and his continual encouragement for all riders, at all levels. With the Willo Marathon the Rocky Trail Team together with friends and family of James aims to support this spirit of encouragement and passion for mountain biking, in everything that we do.

Stromlo Forest Park Totem
Did you know that a totem has been erected at Stromlo Forest Park in Canberra in memory of James? The totem was opened by the ACT Government Minister for Sport in October 2010, and is the first totem to commemorate a mountain bike rider at Mt Stromlo. It stands as a permanent dedication to James and marks the start of a new trail at Stromlo Forest Park called the “Willo Link” – named after James Williamson. Thanks to Anton Scott-Cameron (Swell Designs) whose tireless energy and direction was responsible for bringing the Willo Trail and the Totem to Stromlo Forest Park as a permanent tribute to James.


Do you have any questions?

Talk to us via our online chat – click on the orange circle symbol on your bottom right screen corner and we’ll be right with you! (We always love talking bikes, racing and riding!)