04 Apr 2013

2012 London Olympians Dan McConnell (AUS) and Karen Hanlen (NZL) have been crowned the 2013 Oceania cross country champions in Glenorchy, Tasmania.

McConnell successfully defended his title in the elite men’s category, beating challengers Sid Taberlay (AUS) and Luke Fetch (AUS) to the line.

“I have won this a few times,” McConnell said of his third Oceania title. “It’s a very good race to set up the season with a lot of UCI points on offer, it’s really going to help me for the rest of the season in Europe,” the Trek Factory rider said.

Tasmanian expat Taberlay, lead the field for the first two laps, riding in a lead group of five including three under 23 competitors.

The inclusion of the under 23 riders Anton Cooper (NZL), Jack Haig (AUS) and Dirk Peters (NZL)  to the lead group ensured a fast and furious pace, eventually getting the better of Taberlay who dropped back with three laps remaining.

“I was pretty comfortable in the first two laps,” Taberlay said. “But by the third, those guys started hitting each other so I kind of didn’t quite have it on the steep part of the climb so I let them go.”

McConnell however, held the wheel of the under 19 junior world champion Cooper and Haig before the pair broke away to complete their final lap in what was clocked as the fastest lap time of the day.

That left the Victorian to ride tempo to the finish line one lap later to claim the Oceania title, over two and a half minutes ahead of Taberlay.

“There was a fair battle with the under 23 guys and there weren’t too many elite men here today, the younger guys had one less lap so the pace was a lot faster than the elite guys.

“I just tried to stay out of their way and they set a good pace for me so I was able to use them to get a bit of gap on the rest of the elite field,” McConnell said.

In the elite women’s race, Hanlen made up for a shaky start, racing from fifth position to first during the five lap race.

“I had a really slow start,” Hanlen described. “but I then managed to come back nice and strong on the third lap and kept coming back for the finish – I was really wrapped to get a win for an Oceania championship.”

The mother of two took out the race ahead of Australia’s Rowena Fry (TAS) and Tory Thomas (VIC).

Fry led the race from the gun with Hanlen hot on her heels, however after the first lap was completed, the New Zealander had slipped well down the field.

Hanlen spent the next two laps making up ground, catching Fry by the bell lap and consolidating her winning position to take a comfortable 45 second win.

“I have been having this happen in my national series and I know once I get through the second lap I kick in and seem to just get stronger and stronger,” said Hanlen.

For Launceston born Fry, the place result was made extra special with the support of family and friends.

“I was really really happy with second,” Fry exclaimed. “I was happy to pull off a podium finish and with a few more races under my belt I should be able to move up a place in the future.

“There are a lot of friends and family here to watch today, I love racing in Tassie and the course in Hobart is great.”

In the Under 23 racing, Rebecca Henderson (AUS) claimed the Oceania Championship title, the 21-year-old testing herself against the elite women, finishing a lap early with a sizable lead on the entire field.

In the men’s race, Cooper made a decisive move mid-way through the final lap with Haig holding on for second, Peters third.