Daniel McConnell (ACT) refused to give up his Australian title without a fight as he made it number six at the 2017 MTB National Championship at Canungra, near the Gold Coast on Sunday.
The three-time Olympian produced a gutsy performance to claim the title in a time of 1:21:41 after seven laps on a punishing course.
“It’s probably the most rewarding Aussie champs I’ve won and came into the village arms pumping and felt pretty good on this climb and for Bec to win this morning tops off the week.”
McConnell held off Cameron Ivory (NSW), a further three minutes back, and Mark Tupalski (ACT) who took bronze in his first major race in 15 months.
It was an emotional McConnell who crossed the line after admitting earlier in the week that it would be a struggle to retain his Australian title.
“I was pretty intimidated cause Cam’s been in good form and tried to save myself on the climb if that was possible on this course.”
“It’s the first time in six months I’ve actually felt comfortable and I’ll definitely soak this up for a few days,” McConnell admitted.
It was a brutal test for the 21 rider field, and while conditions had improved after the early morning downpour, there were plenty of mind games out in front as Ivory came hunting for the coveted green and gold jersey.
The duo sat on each others wheel in the early exchanges before McConnell took the lead on the third lap and made his move on the fifth, recording a lap time of 11min30 which blew the competition apart.
“We were just testing each other out there and a few little moves here and there and Dan launched a big one with a few laps to go and I still felt good and thought I’ll let him sit just in front of me few seconds and I blinked and I couldn’t get anything back,” Ivory said.
The race also saw the return of Tupalski, who fought his way through the field with two laps to go to earn a bronze medal at the national championship.
“I really don’t know how that happened, I’m actually speechless for a change.”
Tasman Nankervis (VIC) had plenty to say as he took charge from the first of his six laps, to claim the U23 title for the first time after finishing second last year.
“There are no easy laps, I’m happy to be mixing it up with the elites in lap times and finally feel as if I’m producing what I can do,” Nankervis said.
It was a story of redemption in the Junior Men for Cameron Wright (QLD), after a bronze at the Oceania, the Brisbane rider made amends as he ripped around the course to claim his first Australian title in 1:01:08 ahead of Kian Lerch-Mackinnon (VIC) and newly crowned Oceania champion Sam Fox (TAS).
“I’ve been pretty angry leading into this one and really wanted it that bad.”
“I just felt better until the last lap before I get to the tops and felt the cramps coming but I made it and tried to keep safe down the hill.”