Henderson and McConnell strong in 2014 World Cup season opener

Words by Cycling Australia | Images by Cycling Australia

Reigning national champions Dan McConnell (Trek Factory Racing) and Bec Henderson (Trek Factory Racing) have kick started their 2014 season with strong results in the first round of UCI MTB World Cup Series in South Africa.

Held at the Pietermaritzburg Cascades MTB Park, McConnell finished ninth and Henderson sixteenth in the cross-country events won by French legend Julien Absalon and Swiss prodigy Jolanda Neff respectively.

The world’s best riders now turn their attentions to the second round of the Series to be held in Cairns, Australia, from April 25-27 – worldcupcairns.com.au.

Elite Men Recap

Victoria’s Dan McConnell (Trek Factory Racing) had a breakthrough year in 2013 after many years on the World Cup circuit. The dual Olympian recorded his first World Cup win at the opening round in Albstaadt, Germany and went on to place an incredible second in the World Cup Series, the highest place for an Australian since the win by Cadel Evans in 1999.

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Starting 2014 in Pietermartizburg on the front row, McConnell was fourth off the line and had settled into tenth place by the middle of the first lap. The men’s field started with an incredible burst of speed, recording a simply unsustainable first lap time that would ultimately claim some victims.

McConnell raced strongly as the pace steadied, moving around a little in the field but never falling out of reach of the top ten. Known for his strong finishes, McConnell consolidated tenth place on lap four and then moved up to his eventual finish position of ninth on lap five.

In the overall, legends of the sport Julien Absalon (BMC Mountainbike Racing Team) and Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo MTB Racing Team) battled for much of the race.

It appeared Schurter, the stronger descender, would ride away with the win however a flat rear tyre on lap five would end such possibilities, and Absalon rode on to record another career win.

Elite Women Recap

Racing with the Elite Women has been a long time coming for Canberran Bec Henderson (Trek Factory Racing). The 2012 Olympian won the 2013 World Cup Series in the U23 category, including two individual U23 World Cup wins, the young Australian steps up to the Elite ranks already as our fastest female rider.

Henderson can now add an excellent first Elite race to her resume after a strong showing in Pietermartzburg. Placed 19th at the end of lap one, Henderson rode her way to 16th midway through lap four, the position she would record at the end of the race. This result sees her finish in the top half of an excellent field on debut.

Victorian Tory Thomas has a resume that includes national titles in both cross country and marathon disciplines, as well as a win in the Tour de Timor, and today she recorded 31st place. Fellow Victorian Jenni King, the reigning 2014 National Series Champion was unable to start due to injuries from a crash in practice.

Reigning Under 23 world champion Jolanda Neff’s (Liv Pro XC Team) choice to race the Elite competition was validated in the best way today with Neff recording her debut World Cup win. She led from start to finish, and only came back to the field during lap two after a big crash on the “corkscrew” section of the trail.

U23 Men Recap

Australian Cameron Ivory has had a breakthrough start to 2014 with the talented rider from NSW recording wins in both the National Series & Championships.

A nasty crash on the tough Cascades Mountain Bike Park Cross Country course in practice earlier in the week forced Ivory into hospital, however it seems nothing would stop him from making the start line.

A steady start saw him in 19th place at the end of lap two of five, but on lap three Ivory turned on the power to moving up seven places to twelfth. Ivory would ultimately pass one more rider on his way to recording an excellent eleventh place to start his 2014 campaign.

Michael Crosbie (VIC) finished 17th and Ben Forbes (QLD) rode consistently to take 20th, a result that sees all three Australian U23 riders finish in the top half of a quality field.

In the overall French rider Jordan Sarrou (BH-Suntour-KMC) took the lead early and rode away with a confident win.

About the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Series

  • 2014 Series will feature nine events in nine countries, across four continents from April and August.
  • Six rounds are held in the Olympic Cross Country, Downhill and Cross Country Eliminator events across the elite, under 23 and junior categories.
  • The opening round will be held in Pietermaritzburg (South Africa) from April 10-13.

Follow 2014 Cairns World Cup online

2014 Cairns World Cup Event Info

The Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland is proud to support the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup as part of a growing calendar of sporting, cultural, business and regional events across the state.

The Tablelands Classic

The week is not just for the professionals with the Tablelands Classic presenting the chance for everyday riders to test their skills, before heading into Cairns to watch the World Cup unfold over the weekend. More info atmtb.subaru.com.au.

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