Daniel McConnell (ACT) made it back to back wins in the opening round of the 2017 XCO National Series held in Orange over the weekend, while Anna Beck (QLD) produced an upset in round two of the elite women.
Riders faced hot, dry and dusty conditions at Kinross State Forest for the first two rounds of the season at the venue, which played host to a national series for the first time.
In the opening round of the elite women Rebecca Henderson (ACT) picked up where she left off last season, and clocked 1:35:45 over the five laps on what was a short, punchier 4.7km Saturday loop, ahead of Kathryn McInerney (NSW) and Eliza Kwan (ACT).
But the reigning national series holder struggled to back up on Sunday, on the steeper 6km loop, with a hard earned second.
“Today I was super flat and rusty and was suffering and couldn’t just find a good speed,” said Henderson.
“Finally on the fourth and final lap I had a little target and was feeling good and I could hear that Anna wasn’t that far ahead and sort of gave it what I had and almost got there,” Henderson remarked.
On Sunday Beck held a two minute lead heading into the final lap over McInerney and Henderson.
“I think I had more to prove today having a mechanical yesterday in second and everyone had sore legs so I tried to go out early and get a visual gap which worked.”
“It was super hard; the course got more blown out, the climbs just seemed to get steeper and that whole last lap I was thinking just ride consistent and safe and not crash,” Beck said.
The Brisbane based cross-country rider crossed the line in 1:40:02 with Henderson six seconds behind.
Despite the likes of Cam Ivory, Brendan Johnston and Kyle Ward missing, McConnell would still dominate the clock in the opening rounds of the series with an average 16minute lap time to finish 1:38:31 ahead of Russ Nankervis (VIC) and Ben Bradley (TAS) who rounded out the podium in round one, before holding off Bradley and Ethan Kelly (QLD) on day two.
“It’s always hard the first race of the season and you never really know where you are at, so to come away with two race wins I’m pretty happy and I can build that lead into a good season,” McConnell said.
“I think over the next few rounds you will see few more guys come back and the rest of the season will get more competitive.”
In a stacked Junior men’s field, Cameron Wright (QLD) would take top spot on the podium both days with some scorching lap times to ensure an early lead in the series over Matthew Dinham (NSW) and Kian Lerch-Mackinnon (VIC).
“Definitely having a shorter race you can push a lot harder a lot sooner.”
“I’m looking forward to the rest of the national series and felt great round one and two, so round three and four will be full on with the boys on my heels.”
Katherine Hosking (NSW) claimed wins on both days in the Junior female category. She beat second-placed Olivia Nendick by about 10 minutes on both loops.
Riley King (NSW) was superb in the Under 17s, winning comfortably by 16 seconds on both loops, with Charlie Todd (NSW) coming second in both races.