The Elite Men and Women’s 2017 Oceania MTB Continental Championship cross-country title will head over the Tasman with Anton Cooper (NZL) and Samara Sheppard (NZL) claiming wins at Jubilee Park, Toowoomba on Saturday.
Cooper, who was defending his jersey from last year, produced one of the rides of the day to fight his way back from a crash, which saw him drop to sixth on lap one to take the title in a time of 1:25:31 ahead of Cameron Ivory (NSW) and Daniel McConnell (ACT).
“I just went wide and the front wheel washed out and I went over the bar. That wasn’t a big deal but more the fact my chain came off then and it got tangled up so I had to run to the tech zone,” the Christchurch native said.
“It’s the first time I’ve been able to win Oceania’s and nationals in the same year and get all those points in the bag.”
The race also continued to see the rise of Ivory, as he battled to hold off the New Zealander.
“When I went pass Anton in the feed zone I thought he’s not only small but strong and he’s angry and he’s going to come back hard towards the end.”
“He was back buzzing on my tyre with a lap to go and I just couldn’t match him on the last lap,” said Ivory who now heads into the National Championships at Canungra next weekend with plenty of confidence.
While it has been a slow start for the 5 time Australian champion in Daniel McConnell, the Canberra based rider was pleased to fight his way back into the bronze medal position.
“It was always going to be hard race for me today and I was really happy to finish third and still get some good points for the rest of the season.”
“And the form is sort of coming back,”
Local favourite Jared Graves (QLD) put his foot down early to test the legs of the field, but even he admitted it wasn’t the best strategy in the five-lap race.
“I think I rode the rookie race of my life,” Graves admitted.
“Even though the body felt amazing the first two laps and thought I was in a really good spot then lap 3 I had a crash on the corner and don’t know what happened, I just started cramping from there.”
For Shepard, who along with Cooper was coming off victory at the New Zealand Championships a fortnight earlier, made the most of a mechanical by Rebecca Henderson (ACT) on the first lap to take the lead, which she held on to for the remaining three laps and win in a time of 1:23:03, more than 2 minutes in front of Holly Harris (NSW) and Henderson.
“I got out pretty well and I think Bec had an issue so I got to sneak past her and find my rhythm and ride as smooth as I could,”
“It is an unbelievable start to 2017. I’ve never had this good a result at an elite level and I’m planning a bit of a campaign to qualify at Commonwealth Games,” said Sheppard who finished fifth in the same race at Queenstown last year.
It was a huge result for Harris, who was given special dispensation from the UCI to ride up in the elite category.
The Armidale rider has found a burst of form, with two national series wins and now an elite silver medal at the Oceania Championships.
“I just can’t believe it.”
“I really am trying to wind it up this year and really get myself ready for World Championships in Cairns,” said Harris.
For Henderson, who got out to a strong lead before she her chain came off right at the feed zone, then faced more problems only a few hundred metres down the course.
“But then had to do the re-fit with the derailleur and the gears and trying to get instructions on how to do that without getting help.”
“This and next week are the two big races of the domestic summer and they really mean a lot to me and to get a bit of a sting losing my Oceania title so really hoping I can retain my national champs jersey,” said the two time Olympian.
In the Junior Men, Sam Fox (TAS) produced the upset of the season so far taking out the title ahead Matt Dinham (NSW) and the previously undefeated Cameron Wright (QLD) in third.
New Zealand again featured on top of the podium, as Jessica Manchester (NZL) was more than five minutes in front of Katherine Hosking (NSW) and fellow Kiwi Liv Bishop (NZL).
Full results timedresult.com