30 Aug 2013

Crashes during training are not uncommon for professional cyclists like Victoria’s Daniel McConnell, but those caused by monkeys aren’t exactly an every day occurence.

The local South African wildlife got the better of the dual Olympian last week when a group surprised him while on a training ride near the Pietermaritzburg course.

“For a while I didn’t think I would start, but now I am, I am going to give it everything,” said McConnell, who suffered a bruised shoulder and is now sporting considerable skin wounds on both hands.

Despite the fall, a couple of days rest has the 28-year-old Trek Factory Racing rider ready to start this Saturday’s elite men’s cross country race at the 2013 UCI MTB and Trials World Championships.

“The body is ok on the course, I have a fair bit of skin off, but I have got a few laps in now and am starting to feel very confident on the course.”

McConnell enters the World Championships with confidence after a stellar 2013 World Cup season. In May he became the first Australian man to win a cross-country World Cup since Cadel Evans in 2000 by winning the opening round in Albstadt, Germany.

In the most recent round held in Mont Saint Anne in Canada earlier this month, McConnell finished fifth to move into third on the overall standings with two rounds remaining.

“It has been a bit of a dream season, the World Cup win in Albstadt was unexpected, I had only had the one top twenty finish coming into the season and have now been on the podium twice and a sixth place too, so the consistency is there.

“I would love to think winning is a possibility here, but it hasn’t been the smoothest lead into the race, but on the other side, I have also had some really good training leading in.”

McConnell predicted a number of contenders will be in the mix for the crown, headlined by defending champion Nino Schurter of Switzerland and four-time world champion Julien Absalon of France.

“I think Absalon is the fastest guy at the moment by a long shot, he is the one to watch for sure, along with Nino,” he said. “They will take it out really fast and for me it is a case of not losing too much time in the first two or three laps.

McConnell also hinted that the course will play a major part come race day.

“The course is hard, so you’re going to have to be on your game on Saturday, There is a fair bit of climbing, nothing too steep, so a little bit of rain would be good.

“It is going to be interesting to see what the weather does as even just day to day and its getting really chopped up, you can see all the lines forming and ruts appearing.

“Hopefully I will be still in the mix and well inside the top ten in the final stages,” McConnell said modestly.