Racing: Henderson and McConnell shine Bright at Subaru Australian Mountain Bike Championships

Words by MTBA | Images by MTBA, Tim Bardsley-Smith

Olympians Henderson and McConnell shine Bright at Subaru Australian Mountain Bike Championships

Olympians Bec Henderson (ACT) and Dan McConnell (VIC) have put on a display of pure class in Bright, Victoria to become the 2014 Australian Cross Country Mountain Biking National champions.

Bec Henderson - (c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

The Subaru Australian Mountain Bike Championships have brought four disciplines of mountain biking action to the scenic alpine township, and the focus of the day was the Olympic Cross country event.

The Elite men was broadly predicted to be a battle between dual Olympian McConnell and Jared Graves (QLD), a living legend on the gravity side of the sport. Both riders shared the spoils at the recent Subaru National Mountain Bike Series.

Graves is one of the very best in the world in the Enduro and DownHill disciplines of the sport, and has been racing Cross Country for the last two summers to build fitness. He’s known for his power and speed, and he did not disappoint, powering from the line to have a 4.7s lead over McConnell at the end of the first lap.

Mark Tupalski - (c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

McConnell is a true professional, and knows how to win on the biggest of stages, winning a World Cup in Albstadt, Germany and finishing a formidable 2013 as the second ranked rider in the UCI World Cup series.

Making his move on lap 2, he would pass Graves at the start of the climb to take the lead by 10.4s.

Jared Graves - (c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

“I had a good start and could see what everyone else was doing for the first lap. Once I passed Graves at the start of the climb on the second lap, I settled into my race pace where I’m most happy and I was able to get some consistent laps together” reflected McConnell.

He would never look back and went on to claim a dominant win to take his third National title. “It’s good for the confidence to get the win in the first big race of my season”.

Graves rode well to take second, and is happy with his form while maintaining focus on his 2014 goals. “I want to go one step better than last year and become Enduro world champion”. Mark Tupalski (ACT) rode his way up through the field to claim a well-earned third.

Cameron Ivory from New South Wales beat a strong field to take the Champions jersey in the Under 23 Mens in hot and dusty conditions. Jack Haig (VIC) took second place with Michael Crosbie (VIC) in third. Reece Tucknott (WA) took the win in the hotly-contested Under 19 race.

In Elite women’s action the field assembled was second to none, with many past National Champions on the start line.

The newest member of the Elite group was also the favourite, with Bec Henderson racing her first National Championships in the Elite category. Henderson had a 2013 that most riders can only ever dream of winning two World Cups and the UCI World Cup series for Under 23 Women.

The race would be all about Henderson. She lead from the start, starting with a six second gap lead over Mullens in the first lap, and picked up her pace to build on her lead throughout the race. Henderson rode the race in a style matching her planned goals. “My
tactic was definitely to go out hard and make it as hard as possible for everybody”

Jenni King - (c) Tim Bardsley-Smith

Henderson was clearly ecstatic with the win, crossing the line with arms in the air. “It’s really special winning the National Championship, obviously everybody wants to be in peak form for this day. I’ll get to wear the jersey for 12 months on the National and international racing circuit. I am really proud and really really excited”.

In the Under 23 Women’s race, Holly Harris (ACT) and Em Parkes (ACT) continue to create close battles, and today Harris would come away with the title. The Under 19 Women’s race was won by Megan Williams (QLD).

In observed trials action, World Championship bronze medallist Janine Jungfels (QLD) won her third successive National Title.

Downhill seeding took place to decide the start order for Sunday’s finals. The brother and sister duo of Mick Hannah (QLD) and Tracey Hannah (QLD) were both medalists at the 2013 World Championships, and have claimed the fastest seeding times heading into Sunday’s finals.

Sunday completes the final day of national championship action. Spectators are in for a treat with the thrilling downhill finals as well as fast and furious action in the cross country eliminator.

Monday is an add-on day which will see the first round of the Real Insurance Australian XCM series. Some of Australia’s best long distance riders will complete three 27km laps across Bright. Reigning marathon champion and four time world solo 24 hour champion Jason English (NSW) will headline the field.

Mountain Bike Australia is delivering event, and President Russ Baker AM said “Bec Henderson and Dan McConnell did not disappoint today in Bright and showed why they are the riders to watch, not only in Australia, but around the world. They clearly dominated the Elite categories thrilling the large crowd.”

“We look forward to continued perfect conditions in the Downhill tomorrow after some exciting times in the seeding runs today. The courses at Bright are proving both challenging and exciting for both the riders and spectators.

Spectators are welcome at the Subaru Australian Mountain Bike Championships free of charge. All information can be found at:
http://mtb.subaru.com.au/national-championships/

Results are also available online at: http://mtb.subaru.com.au/national-championships/results/

 

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