After standing on the World Cup podium five times in 2021 (three of those on the second step), Bec McConnell has kicked the 2022 UCI XCO World Cup seasion off with a bang, and captured that elusive win in Petrópolis, Brazil
After riding to fourth place in the short track the day before, McConnell earned herself a front row start alongside Pauline Ferrand-Prevo, Laura Stigger, Evie Richards and Loana Lecomte.
Richards, along with Jolanda Neff, wouldn’t start due to illness. PFP started the race, but quickly fell off the pace and pulled out, also sighting illness.
The race kicked off in a familiar fashion with French National champ Loana Lecomte disappearing off the front, opening up an 8-second gap by the time she’d hit the first climb on lap one.
Race deciding rock garden
By the third lap, Lecomte had extended that gap to 30-seconds. However, a bobble in the janky man-made rock garden saw McConnell and Anne Terpstra claw back 10 seconds while the Frenchwoman got going. By the end of the fourth lap, they’d caught Lecomte, and it was Terpstra’s turn to go off the front. A well-timed attack on the same rock garden gave the Dutch rider a ten-second advantage, with McConnell and Lecomte in pursuit.
A lapped rider and a slippery root would unravel Terpstra’s race, and a well-timed attack would put McConnell in the lead with half a lap to go. However, Terpstra could not match the 14x Australian National Champion’s surge, and at the final split, she’d opened a nine-second gap.
After the ultimate descent into the finish area, Terpstra was nowhere to be seen, and McConnell pinned down her first elusive world cup win.
“I’m pretty lost for words; it’s so special, so crazy. Coming down that hill into the finish, I was thinking, “What the fuck is happening?” says McConnel in a post-race interview for the ages.
“Everybody has sort of been like it’s coming, it’s coming. I’ve been super consistent over the last couple of years, on the podium more often than not — but that never means that the win is coming,” she said.
“Every season, you go away for six months to rebuild, and you just don’t know if you’re going to come back in the same shape or better than you had.
Everything can go well, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen on race day,” McConnell said.
With this win, McConnell puts her at the top of the World Cup standings going into Albstadt, Germany, next month.
Photos: Fabio Piva / Red Bull Content Pool, Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool