Bec Henderson (ACT) raced to an outstanding 15th place in the Elite Women’s Cross Country World Mountain Bike Championships, while her partner and season team-mate Dan McConnell (ACT) suffered the heartbreak of two flat tyres in the Men’s race.
Racing took place in Hafjell, Norway on day five of the 25th UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships.
Elite Women Cross Country
In the Elite Women’s race, Henderson (ACT) and Peta Mullens (VIC) were Australia’s two representatives.
2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and 2012 Olympian Henderson (ACT) moved up from the Under 23 ranks this year after a standout 2013 in which she won the Under 23 UCI World Cup Series.
Today Henderson started from second row of the grid, and she consolidated a position in the early twenties for much of the first half of the race.
A steady start would prove to be a smart strategy with the tough Hafjell course taking a toll on riders over the 6 lap race.
On lap 4, Henderson cracked the top 20 for the first time since the start of the race, and from there she would power from strength to strength, picking up multiple places each lap.
She would ultimately finish in an excellent 15th place in her maiden Elite Women’s World Championship race, leaving the solid impression that the future of the sport for Australian Women is in sound hands.
Teammate and Australian Cross Country Eliminator National Champion Peta Mullens finished in 61st place.
Catharine Pendrel of Canada won the World Championship title for her second time, completing an amazing 2014 that included a Commonwealth Games gold medal.
Second place went to ‘07 & ‘09 World Champion Irina Kalentieva (Russian Federation), with Lea Davison (USA) rounding out the Elite Women’s podium.
Elite Men Cross Country
In the Elite Men’s Championship race, Australia’s representatives were Dan McConnell (ACT) and 2013 Cross Country Eliminator World Champion Paul van der Ploeg.
McConnell, a dual Olympian, has excelled in the past two seasons, winning a round of the World Cup in 2013 and finishing on the podium for the UCI World Cup series in consecutive years.
Traditionally a slow race starter, McConnell today accelerated hard from the line to be in second place in early running and settled comfortably into the top 5 early on the second lap.
Unfortunately it would be all bad news from here for the Australian.
He suffered a flat tyre towards the end of Lap 2, and despite excellent mechanical assistance in the technical zone he lost 6 places and 58s from the incident.
After restarting racing and settling into his new 11th position, the truly unthinkable occurred and McConnell had a second flat tyre towards the end of Lap 3.
He lost 34 places this time around and would withdraw from the race late on Lap 4.
This marks consecutive years of bad luck for McConnell – in 2013 he was injured pre-race in training and finished 42nd.
Team mate van der Ploeg finished in 94th place.
On more than one occasion in 2014 McConnell has battled head-to-head with the two legends of the sport – Julien Absalon (France) and Nino Schurter (Switzerland).
Today they would own the World Championships race to themselves, and after a brutal battle Absalon was victories, recording a record fifth World Championship win.
Schurter, himself a triple world champion, placed second after surviving a challenging crash just moments from the finish, and Marco Aurelio Fontana (Italy) placed third.
2014 Cross Country Mountain Bike World Championship Results
1. Catharine Pendrel, (CAN) 1:31:30
2. Irina Kalentieva, (RUS) +0:00:21
3. Lea Davison, (USA) +0:00:43
15. Rebecca Henderson (ACT) + 5:46
61. Peta Mullens – 2 Laps down
1. Julien Absalon (FRA) 1:27:06
2. Nino Schurter (SUI) +1:51
3. Marco Aurelio Fontana (ITA) +3:28
94. Paul van der Ploeg (VIC) – 4 Laps down
DNF Dan McConnell (ACT)
Downhill Timed Session
The 2014 World Championships culminate on Sunday with Downhill racing for Junior and Elite riders.
An official timed-session was held today for the Elite categories, and while results do not contribute to the start order for Sunday they do allow riders to gauge their performance level against the field and to tackle a clear track at race pace.
Six-time National Champion Tracey Hannah (QLD) is Australia’s sole Elite Female entrant, and she set the 7th-fastest time of the day despite crashing during her run.
In the men’s session, Troy Brosnan (SA) continued his outstanding 2014 form, placing 5th and setting the fastest Australian time.
Hot on Brosnan’s tail was triple Elite World Champion Sam Hill (WA), recording 6th place just a quarter of a second behind Brosnan.
Bryn Atkinson (NSW) had a great run to finish 11th and Connor Fearon (SA) recorded 15th position.
Mick Hannah (QLD), Jack Moir (NSW) and Graeme Mudd (NSW) claim 23rd, 25th and 27th positions respectively.
2014 Downhill Official Timed Session – Mountain Bike World Championship Results
1. Rachel Atherton (GBR) 3:53.538
7. Tracey Hannah (QLD) +15.019
1. Greg Minnaar (RSA) 3:27.399
5. Troy Brosnan (SA) +2.222
6. Samuel Hill (WA) +2.500
11. Bryn Atkinson (NSW) +4.095
15. Connor Fearon (SA) +5.505
23. Michael Hannah (QLD) +7.849
25. Jack Moir (NSW) +8.379
27. Graeme Mudd (NSW) +8.666