Henderson & McConnell Monopolise Mountain Bike Action on Stromlo Trails

Words by MTBA | Images by MTBA, Russ Baker, Jaime Black

Canberra mountain bike power-duo Rebecca Henderson (ACT) and Daniel McConnell (ACT) have monopolised the tough Stromlo course in Canberra at Cross Country Round 4 of the Subaru National Mountain Bike Series presented by Mountain Bike Australia. 

On Saturday, the Elite Women raced the Cross Country, with dual Olympian and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Henderson turning on the power from the very beginning.

Bec Henderson - Credit Jaime Black

Bec Henderson

After just one lap, Henderson had put a 32 second gap between herself and the rest of the field, which was led by Peta Mullens (VIC). This lead more than doubled to 1 minute 10 seconds after lap two, and by lap three, her lead had virtually guaranteed her the win, Henderson regaining the Series Leader jersey in the process. “I couldn’t have asked for a better result or a better ride for me,” Henderson said. “It’s a really challenging and technical course, which works in my favour and obviously I’ve got a bit of extra time to practice on it being a home course. “I’m really trying to peak for the Oceania Championships, that’s pretty important to me, and then the National Champs.”

Peta Mullens

Peta Mullens

Jenni King (VIC) rode consistently to maintain a third place position for the entirety of the race, while Jodie Willett (QLD) and Em Parkes (ACT) battled it out in the final few laps, with Willett finishing the victor in the battle for fourth.

In the U19’s, Sarah Tucknott (WA) secured victory in the heat ahead of Ebony Tanzen (VIC).

Once again, of notable mention is local 13 year-old rider Zoe Cuthbert (ACT), who rode to another Under 15 Women’s gold medal, finishing her second and final lap ranked 7th outright across all women’s fields.

The Elite Men did battle at midday, riding the same number of laps as the Elite Women due to the ever increasing heat, with McConnell gunning it from the start to complete the first lap in just 12 minutes 19 seconds. Riding in front of current Series Leader Scott Bowden (TAS), McConnell created a gap early that would never be breached, riding to yet another win as the other riders battled for their spot on the podium. “It was the first hot day we’ve had for a few weeks so it was a bit of a shock to the system,” said McConnell.   “I really wanted to set my own pace and go out really hard, then sort of hold onto it and then get into some good lap times in the back half of the race. “I had a fairly aggressive set up,” he added. “I was running the 36 tooth chain ring on the front, which is pretty hard on the climb so it was really important to me to dictate the pace and not be in a bunch, which is harder, but it all panned out really well.”

Scott Bowden

Scott Bowden

Cam Ivory

Cam Ivory

At the half-way mark, Bowden and Brendan Johnston (ACT) were neck and neck, and they would stay this close until the final corner of the race. A tough sprint that would last the length of the finish straight saw Johnston secure the silver in front of Bowden who retains the Subaru Series Leader jersey. Fourth place went to 2014 Subaru National Series winner Cameron Ivory (NSW) with perennially fast Andy Blair (ACT) recording fifth.

Series Leader Liam Jeffries (VIC) took out gold to record his third Subaru National Series round win a row in the Under 19s, followed by Luke Brame (NSW) and Alex Lack (TAS).

Short Course Cross Country – Friday 

Kicking off the weekend with Short Course Cross Country races on Friday night, McConnell was the hot favourite in the Elite Men’s competition and he did not disappoint the crowd. McConnell rode hard from the start, working with Brendan Johnston (ACT) and building a lead from the rest of the pack. This lead would see the two riding together for the thirty minutes of standard race time but on the final lap McConnell put the hammer down, riding away to a convincing win.

In an intense and exciting battle for third place, Tristan Ward (NSW) proved to be the best of the chasing group, sprinting for the bronze medal after a technicality meant that third place was awarded before the overall race had even been won.

In the Elite Women’s race, Naomi Williams (VIC) and Rebecca Locke (VIC) pushed hard through the heat for the duration of the race.

While Williams sat in the lead for each lap, Locke sprinted on the final Subaru arch corner to take the win in front of a cheering crowd.

The 2014/15 Subaru National Series comes to an end in three weeks, with the final round held in Toowoomba, QLD from 27 February – 1 March, in conjunction with the Oceania Championships, which will run 25 – 27 February 2015.

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