Words by MTBA | Images by Peter Hosking

In one of the most exciting elite women’s finishes in years, Rebecca Henderson (ACT) held off Eliza Kwan (ACT) in a sprint for the line in Round 4 of 2017 XCO National Series in Armidale on Sunday.

The duo were locked together heading into the last of the 5 laps around the 6 km course, before it came down to the final 50m.

“The outside line wasn’t ideal but I was able to carry that little bit of extra speed and thankfully it was a little quicker,” Henderson admitted.

“It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had a sprint finish.”

The Canberra rider got home by eight hundredths of a second with time of 1:37:08:24.

For Kwan, it was foreign territory out in front battling for the lead with the dual Olympian.

“I’ve never been in that position before, so this is a first for me and it’s given me a big confidence boost.”

“I thought I might try and get in front to try and control the pace, and I didn’t want her to get too far ahead so¬†popping out into the open section I knew I might as well go,” said Kwan.

It was local favourite Holly Harris (NSW) who took up the challenge to Henderson early and tried to pull away on lap three before the reigning national series champion made her move.

“I just used that rock garden to get a little bit of a gap and got away again and then Eliza caught me through the¬†pedally section.”

While in the elite men Jared Graves (QLD) was a late withdrawal from Round 4 through illness, which left it a battle between Dan McConnell (ACT), Cameron Ivory (NSW), and Brendan Johnston (ACT), and it was the Novocastrian Ivory who made it back to back victories in the New England.

“I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull up after yesterday but I was happy to find the form and managed to pull Trekky back,” Ivory said.

Ivory finished in a time of 1:21:59:85, with Johnston in second and Ben Oliver (NZ) holding out for third.

Riders were faced with only five laps on a fast and flowy course with only a few technical rock features, the section where Ivory proved his legs were up to speed.

“Just in that punchy section he’s at another level than me and I tried to hang on through the rocky section and get away but he mowed me down and he was just too strong for me in that part of the race,” said Johnston, who notched up his second runner-up place of the weekend.

There was no change in the junior men and women’s results, with Cameron Wright (QLD) showing his turn of pace to wrap up another top of the podium finish, ahead of Matt Dinham (NSW) and Kian Lerch-Mackinnon (VIC).

In the junior women’s race, Jessica Manchester (NZ) had to fight off Armidale favourite Katherine Hosking (NSW) in a sprint to the line earlier in the day.

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