29 Jan 2013

Australian Olympians Dan McConnell and Bec Henderson have landed a spot on the Trek Factory Racing team; it’s massive news for Australian mountain biking. To have our two top cross country racers finally competing with the backing of a fully-fledged top tier team opens up all kinds of opportunities.

Bec Henderson racing at the 2012 London Olympics.

Dan and Bec are no strangers to World Cup competition. Dan has done the hard yards, with 12 seasons in Europe under his belt, and Bec has been knocking down doors on her way to the top echelon of the under 23 World Cup rankings.

In the past this pair have largely been self-supported, hardly the ideal racing environment, so we caught up with them to ask just how different things might be racing on a factory team.

Flow: Congratulations guys! It’s great to hear you’ll be joining the Trek Factory Racing team.

Bec: Thanks! We’ve known for quite a long time, but Trek have been sitting on the news for a while (to let the Gwin furore die down), so it has been really hard to keep it quiet.

Bec Henderson at the 2012 London Olympics

Flow: It must be a great feeling to be on board with a team like Trek.

Bec: Yeah, I’ve never raced overseas with the support of a full team, and I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like. In the past it’s been pretty stressful sometimes, especially at the races where we’re doing all our own mechanics, along with feeding each other during the races. It can be hard to fit in your training too, when you’re worrying about booking travel, accommodation, equipment and the like. It’s going to be amazing to be able to concentrate on riding and racing.

Dan: I’ve done 12 years in Europe racing now, so it does feel good to have that support and backing.

Dan McConnell in South Africa.

Flow: So where will you be based?

Bec: We’ll be living in Switzerland, probably with Annie Last (fellow TFR teammate), quite near where we’ve based ourselves in the past. We’ve got a friend there, Kathrin Stirnemann, who’s father has been the Swiss national coach. Anyhow, we’ve always done technical training with her, so we’ll be able to continue that too. That technical training is so important when racing against the Euros.

Bec Henderson racing at the 2012 World Cup at Val D’lsere

Flow: They do have the mountains and the roots and rocks!

Bec: And the rain too! When it gets wet on the roots I suck, so it’s good to be able to train in the mud.

Flow: So what about equipment?

Bec: We’ll be on both the Superfly SL hardtail and the Superfly 100 SL. It’s going to be great; I’ve never raced a dually, let alone a 29er dually.

Dan: Yeah, the new Superfly 100 is just about as light as my Superfly hardtail this year, so I think I’ll be on the dually quite a lot.

Dan McConnell.

Flow: So what’s on the cards next?

Dan: We’ll be racing the Thredbo National round, well as long as my hand is right by then (Dan recently underwent surgery for a broken bone in his hand). Then in late February after National Champs we head over to Texas and California for a team training camp to meet the rest of the team. Then we’re back for Oceanias before heading to Europe.

Flow: Will you be focussing on the National Champs then?

Dan: Yep, definitely, especially with the home track advantage, though with my hand I haven’t exactly been able to get out there! Still, I’d like to head overseas with the green and gold on my back, so the Nationals will be very important.

Flow: And what about through the year, what are the goals?

Bec: Results wise I am super keen to win a World Cup (U23) and hopefully get a medal at World Champs – but we’ll see how the season pans out.  Definitely excited and keen to get the best out of myself this year and take full advantage of the team support.

Dan: Last year I wanted to get a top 20 and I did that. This year I want to cement that placement – if you can get consistently into the top 20, then you have a good day and anything can happen.

Flow: Well done, guys. Well deserved!

Dan McConnell at Mt Stromlo in Canberra.