But in recent months, Dean has taken up another cause, throwing his support behind two of Australia’s most successful mountain bikers, Dan McConnell and Bec Henderson. Motion have developed a brand new line of kit, the Inspire #becanddan range, with all profits from the sale of every item going directly towards supporting our two leading XCO races to keep at it on the World stage.
If we don’t have local heroes at the top of the game, XCO in Australia will suffer, which will harm the growth of the sport.
Unbelievable as it sounds, Bec and Dan, Olympians and World Cup stars, have been battling it out as privateers this year. “Bec and Dan are at the pinnacle of the sport,” says Dean Clark, “it’s a massive injustice to see them without the support they deserve.” As anyone who has been involved in pro racing will attest, having the support of a factory team versus going it alone is like night and day – it’s far from a level playing field, and the expense of racing as a privateer is huge.
The Motion #becanddan range is high quality kit, the very same stuff that Bec and Dan have been racing on the World Cup stage. It’s race-oriented gear, with a slim fit and compression panels on the side and sleeves, so it’ll be equally at home on the cross country race track as the roadie or cyclocross bike too. Complementing the knicks and jersey are a vest and long-sleeve windstopper jersey too, all with the same eye catching theme that contrasts black and boldly coloured bands.
“If the support and money was there to keep these riders on the dirt, we’d be amongst the very lead nations for cross country, there’s no doubt.”
So why support Bec and Dan, and not put the profits elsewhere? For Dean Clark, the rationale is simple: we need heroes. If we don’t have local heroes at the top of the game, XCO in Australia will suffer, which will harm the growth of the sport. “Look at riders like new Junior World Champ Cameron Wright – would he be doing what he’s doing if he didn’t have some like Dan McConnell to inspire him, to challenge him?” asks Dean Clark.
The sport needs riders like Bec and Dan, battling at the pointy end of the World Cup, to motivate the next generation and to keep talented racers in the sport of mountain biking, rather than losing them to the road. “When you look at the talent we’ve had in the ranks of mountain biking in this country which we’ve lost to the road, it’s staggering,” says Clark, “if the support and money was there to keep these riders on the dirt, we’d be amongst the very lead nations for cross country, there’s no doubt.”
Coming off the back of a sensational World Champs, where the XCO was a huge highlight from our perspective, has led to some reflection on our part here at Flow too about the importance of this discipline. It’s bloody exciting to watch, it’s accessible, it’s relevant. As much as we talk about the decline of cross-country racing, it’s still the type of riding that actually gets the most people into the sport – it’s where we all began mountain biking, and so it’s vital that this discipline remains strong.
So if you’re passionate about the strength of Australian mountain biking, and you want to see XCO flourish, we’d definitely encourage you to take a look at Motion’s Inspire range. It’s great kit, and it’s a great cause. You can take look at the range right here.
The three-time Olympian produced a gutsy performance to claim the title in a time of 1:21:41 after seven laps on a punishing course.
“It’s probably the most rewarding Aussie champs I’ve won and came into the village arms pumping and felt pretty good on this climb and for Bec to win this morning tops off the week.”
McConnell held off Cameron Ivory (NSW), a further three minutes back, and Mark Tupalski (ACT) who took bronze in his first major race in 15 months.
It was an emotional McConnell who crossed the line after admitting earlier in the week that it would be a struggle to retain his Australian title.
“I was pretty intimidated cause Cam’s been in good form and tried to save myself on the climb if that was possible on this course.”
“It’s the first time in six months I’ve actually felt comfortable and I’ll definitely soak this up for a few days,” McConnell admitted.
It was a brutal test for the 21 rider field, and while conditions had improved after the early morning downpour, there were plenty of mind games out in front as Ivory came hunting for the coveted green and gold jersey.
The duo sat on each others wheel in the early exchanges before McConnell took the lead on the third lap and made his move on the fifth, recording a lap time of 11min30 which blew the competition apart.
“We were just testing each other out there and a few little moves here and there and Dan launched a big one with a few laps to go and I still felt good and thought I’ll let him sit just in front of me few seconds and I blinked and I couldn’t get anything back,” Ivory said.
The race also saw the return of Tupalski, who fought his way through the field with two laps to go to earn a bronze medal at the national championship.
“I really don’t know how that happened, I’m actually speechless for a change.”
Tasman Nankervis (VIC) had plenty to say as he took charge from the first of his six laps, to claim the U23 title for the first time after finishing second last year.
“There are no easy laps, I’m happy to be mixing it up with the elites in lap times and finally feel as if I’m producing what I can do,” Nankervis said.
It was a story of redemption in the Junior Men for Cameron Wright (QLD), after a bronze at the Oceania, the Brisbane rider made amends as he ripped around the course to claim his first Australian title in 1:01:08 ahead of Kian Lerch-Mackinnon (VIC) and newly crowned Oceania champion Sam Fox (TAS).
“I’ve been pretty angry leading into this one and really wanted it that bad.”
“I just felt better until the last lap before I get to the tops and felt the cramps coming but I made it and tried to keep safe down the hill.”
Riders faced hot, dry and dusty conditions at Kinross State Forest for the first two rounds of the season at the venue, which played host to a national series for the first time.
In the opening round of the elite women Rebecca Henderson (ACT) picked up where she left off last season, and clocked 1:35:45 over the five laps on what was a short, punchier 4.7km Saturday loop, ahead of Kathryn McInerney (NSW) and Eliza Kwan (ACT).
But the reigning national series holder struggled to back up on Sunday, on the steeper 6km loop, with a hard earned second.
“Today I was super flat and rusty and was suffering and couldn’t just find a good speed,” said Henderson.
“Finally on the fourth and final lap I had a little target and was feeling good and I could hear that Anna wasn’t that far ahead and sort of gave it what I had and almost got there,” Henderson remarked.
On Sunday Beck held a two minute lead heading into the final lap over McInerney and Henderson.
“I think I had more to prove today having a mechanical yesterday in second and everyone had sore legs so I tried to go out early and get a visual gap which worked.”
“It was super hard; the course got more blown out, the climbs just seemed to get steeper and that whole last lap I was thinking just ride consistent and safe and not crash,” Beck said.
The Brisbane based cross-country rider crossed the line in 1:40:02 with Henderson six seconds behind.
Despite the likes of Cam Ivory, Brendan Johnston and Kyle Ward missing, McConnell would still dominate the clock in the opening rounds of the series with an average 16minute lap time to finish 1:38:31 ahead of Russ Nankervis (VIC) and Ben Bradley (TAS) who rounded out the podium in round one, before holding off Bradley and Ethan Kelly (QLD) on day two.
“It’s always hard the first race of the season and you never really know where you are at, so to come away with two race wins I’m pretty happy and I can build that lead into a good season,” McConnell said.
“I think over the next few rounds you will see few more guys come back and the rest of the season will get more competitive.”
In a stacked Junior men’s field, Cameron Wright (QLD) would take top spot on the podium both days with some scorching lap times to ensure an early lead in the series over Matthew Dinham (NSW) and Kian Lerch-Mackinnon (VIC).
“Definitely having a shorter race you can push a lot harder a lot sooner.”
“I’m looking forward to the rest of the national series and felt great round one and two, so round three and four will be full on with the boys on my heels.”
Katherine Hosking (NSW) claimed wins on both days in the Junior female category. She beat second-placed Olivia Nendick by about 10 minutes on both loops.
Riley King (NSW) was superb in the Under 17s, winning comfortably by 16 seconds on both loops, with Charlie Todd (NSW) coming second in both races.
McConnell makes history as Bowden gets first chance on Olympic stage
Daniel McConnell will make Australian Olympic history in Rio as he becomes the nation’s first athlete to compete at three Games in the mountain bike discipline.
He is joined in Rio by one of the nation’s brightest prospects in the sport in 21-year-old Scott Bowden, who will make his Olympic debut at the Deodoro Mountain Bike Centre.
“Of course I am excited to represent Australia at the Olympics in Rio,” said McConnell.
“It is the biggest event you can do so to be able to compete in my third Games it means a lot to me and something I can share with everyone who has helped me along the way.”
Since finishing 21st at the London 2012 Games McConnell has risen up the world rankings and currently sits just outside the top ten.
“I have progressed quite a lot since London. I had to train so hard to make those Games and I’ve continued to train just as hard and keep that focus up ever since.
“My main focus at the moment is getting back to the form that got me to the top end of the sport and I’m putting all my energy into that, if I can get there for Rio anything is possible.”
McConnell’s partner Rebecca Henderson was announced to the Rio 2016 Team last week and McConnell is again looking forward to competing alongside her.
“This will be our second Olympics together which is amazing.
“To be able to experience this together is something we will remember for a life time and because it means so much to both of us it definitely motivates us to keep pushing the limits.”
Bowden rounds out the three-member Mountain Bike team for Rio and gets his first shot at Olympic competition in Rio.
“Making an Olympics from quite a young age was something I definitely dreamed of after watching it on television every four years.”
“Witnessing the hype around the Olympics when they were in Sydney in 2000 really resonated with me and highlighted the enormity of the sporting event and how it is so much more than that alone. Since then to be a part of that had been a big dream.”
Bowden first thought he could make Rio in late 2014 when he stuck with McConnell until halfway through the final lap in the opening round of the national series before finishing in second.
While the Olympic year not been all smooth sailing as he builds for Rio the young gun has posted a number of solid results.
“2016 hasn’t gone exactly to plan however I’d say the highs outweigh the lows, and the season obviously isn’t over yet.
“Defending my U23 National title, claiming 3rd in the Elite division at the Oceania Championships and 7th at the first World Cup in Cairns have been among the highlights so far.
“I’m still super motivated and really looking forward to putting in plenty more hard work leading into Rio, and feel as though I’ve still got my best performance to come.”
If that personal best is to be produced in Rio, Bowden knows he will have to have a strong final few weeks prior to the 2016 Games.
“Three weeks before the race in Rio I will travel to Quebec, Canada and race World Cup #5 there before the final leg down to Rio.
“This World Cup will serve as the perfect hit out before the final preparations for Rio and as an added bonus Quebec is on the same time zone as Rio so I should well and truly be over the jet lag.”
The men’s mountain bike competitors are among the final athletes to compete in Rio with the race taking place on the final day of competition in Rio.
Henderson proud to be back on mountain bike’s biggest stage
Rebecca Henderson is set to take to the rugged terrain of the Deodoro Mountain Bike Centre after she was announced as Australia’s women’s representative for the gruelling discipline at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
It will be Henderson’s second Games appearance after she made her Olympic debut in London where she finished 25th.
The 24-year-old from Canberra has had a steady rise up the rankings to her current place inside the world’s top 20, which was helped by a breakthrough bronze medal winning performance at the opening World Cup event of the 2016 season in Cairns.
The result paved the way for another shot at Olympic competition.
“The Olympics in London was amazing,” Henderson said.
“It blew my mind in every possible way and it is what has kept me pushing towards Rio.
“The experience it gives you and the exposure it gives to your sport can really help the sport to progress.”
With another four years of competition under her belt, Henderson will be more readily able to embrace the challenges an Olympic Games throws at you.
“Last time there was so much focus on just being selected that I didn’t have a plan in place for if I was selected.
“This time I have been working towards the Olympic Games as one of my main focuses of the season and not had to stress about the selection.
“I also have the experience of the London Games as well as the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow – so I feel pretty comfortable about how the ‘Games’ operates. It was a lot to take in the first time.”
The Rio course will throw up plenty of challenges for Henderson and her fellow competitors with a number of rocky jumps and a 40-degree descent down a staircase of wooden beams standing in the way of Olympic glory.
Henderson got the chance to head to Rio last October to get to know the course and believes it will be a fast and tactical affair.
“The test event gave me a good idea of the course, the climate and the lifestyle in Brazil.
“I think the course is great – it will make for great spectating and TV coverage which is a huge part of the Olympic Games – showing our sport to a wider audience.
“I don’t think it shows ‘raw’ mountain biking but definitely modern mountain biking with plenty of climbing and technical features. The course is fast so it should also be pretty tactical racing.”
With 50 of the world’s finest women’s Mountain Bike athletes set to hit Deodoro on the penultimate day of Olympic competition, on Saturday August 20, the racing doesn’t get any tougher for Henderson.
“I had the ride of my life at the Cairns World Cup and while I would not consider myself a medal contender in Rio but that doesn’t mean I won’t be giving 100% in my preparation and race in Rio.
“Who knows, I didn’t expect to podium in Cairns.”
Henderson kicked off the 2016 season with a number of wins in the national series before taking out the Oceania Championships.
After her World Cup podium in Cairns she secured anther top 10 finish against world class competition when she was eighth across the line at the La Bresse World Cup in France.
She finished 48th over the weekend at the Mountain Bike World Championships in the Czech Republic.
Australia have never won a medal before in Mountain Bike with Mary Grigson’s sixth place finish at the Sydney 2000 Games the best finish by an Australian in Olympic competition.
Australia has also qualified two men for the Mountain Bike competition in Rio, to be held on Sunday 21 August, but due to an appeal these athletes will be selected at a later date.
Henderson, along with the other 24 cycling athletes (Track, Mountain Bike, Road) selected today, take the overall 2016 Australian Olympic Team to 301 from 22 sports, with an expected final Team of over 400 athletes.
A mix of youth and experience will represent Australia at the UCI MTB XCO World Championships at Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic later this month.
Nine riders have been endorsed by Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA) to contest the elite men and women cross country as well as the Under 23 men and women.
Together with the Australian Juniors announced in April, this brings the total Australian team for the 2016 World Championships to 15.
World number nine and current national elite men’s champion Daniel McConnell (ACT) along with world number 18 and national women’s champion Rebecca Henderson (ACT) will spearhead the Australian contingent.
McConnell will be competing at his seventh world championship in the elite men’s category, with a 27th back in 2012 his best result.
While for Henderson, it will be her third time racing against the best elite women in the world at the championships, placing 15th two years ago.
Peta Mullens (VIC), a former national champion and current Australian marathon cross-country titleholder, makes her return to the world championship stage for a second time, the last back in 2014.
Australia’s second and third ranked elite males Cameron Ivory (NSW) and Brendan Johnston (ACT) will also don the green and gold kit in their second time competing at the elite level at a world championship.
Scott Bowden (TAS) has contested the world champs two times before in the under 23 category both times finishing within the top 40.
While Reece Tucknott (WA) makes his second appearance on the big stage in the U23 along with Holly Harris (NSW) racing in the under 23 women.
“It is a great honour for these riders to wear the green and gold and I congratulate them on their selection,” said Mountain Bike Australia president Russell Baker.
“The XCO world championships are brought forward in an Olympic year, bringing the event closer to our regular season and this team represents a good mix of youth and experience and I wish them all well for the world championships in Nove Mesto na Morave.”
The ironman of Australian Cross Country racing Dan McConnell (VIC) claimed his fifth National Title with a block-buster performance at the 2016 Subaru Australian MTB Championships at Bright, Victoria on Saturday.
With a second Olympic selection beckoning and a World Cup in Cairns next month, McConnell showed just why he’s been the dominant figure in XCO for the past 5 years in Australia.
The Victorian with the gold ahead of Cameron Ivory (NSW) and Kyle Ward (NSW).
“That one is pretty high I think to come here and get a national title hopefully can set myself up for a good year.”
“Today is the best I’ve felt in a long time, and it was great to feel such smoothness on the bike.”
After an opening lap of 21:12 seconds the 30-year-old Victorian, would produce 4 sub 20-minute laps around the course, which featured plenty of climbing.
Ivory and Ward, who have showed during the national series they will be the biggest threat to McConnell in future years, worked together in order to peg back any advantage the four time Australian champion.
“He’s really strong. He pulled away on the second climb of the first lap and we never saw him again,” said Ivory who is aiming for the second spot with McConnell on the Australian Olympic team to go to Rio.
Ward took the spoils over Ivory at Mt Stromlo last December in the second round of the National Seres, but it wouldn’t repeat itself as the Newcastle rider found an extra gear on the final lap.
“I thought I’d tag him early and I thought he’d just have a bit too much sharpness there at the end and he proved it.”
The two young bulls would still be chipping away as McConnell rode solo across the line to the cheers of fans to record a time of 1:37:51 seconds.
Daniel McConnell (ACT) finished the 2015-16 National MTB Series undefeated with a hard fought win in the final round at Jubilee Park, Toowoomba on Saturday.
While he had already wrapped up the Series crown with four straight victories, the defending champion wanted to press home his credentials as the best cross country rider in Australia.
But despite completing the 6 lap race in 1:32:29secs, nearly two minutes in front of second placed Cameron Ivory (NSW), McConnell still played hard task-master.
“It was a pretty hard race and I’m sure have a few things to work on.”
The 30 year old had to contend with Ivory on his wheel early in the race, as conditions heated up.
“I wouldn’t call it too comfortable I was not feeling too good for the first three laps.”
“I thought I either got to get away at my own pace or I’m in a bit of trouble so I sort of had a quick lap and was able to get a gap and with the heat he started to struggle a bit and hold a little bit of a gap.”
For Ivory, who is desperately chasing the second Australian spot on the XCO team to Rio, it wasn’t just the course that got him in the end.
“Once he dropped the hammer I couldn’t’ follow.”
McConnell’s attention now turns towards the 2016 Australian MTB Championships in Bright, Victoria in a fortnight, as he looks to retain his Aussie jersey.
“Olympic year is a really big one for everyone I think we’ll be lucky enough to qualify for two spots the second spot is up for grabs and making everyone work that little bit harder.”
Dan McConnell left his mark on Pemberton as still the best cross country rider in Australia with a command performance in Round 4 of the 2015-2016 Subaru National MTB Series on Sunday.
McConnell drove the rest of the field into oblivion on the red dirt, as he showed no signs of fatigue backing up 24 hours after winning Saturday’s event.
“Yesterday I came in a little bit fresh sort of took me a little bit to find my legs, but today they were on song,” he said.
“It’s always hard backing up after the first lap I felt fairly comfortable.”
The 30 year old completed the seven lap race in 1:47:12, to win his fourth straight Elite Mens race.
“I sort of worked my way into it and half way into it felt really good.”
It was a bunched group two laps in to the second race of the weekend, with all the main players at the head.
But when lap three rolled around, the two time Canberra Olympian in McConnell put the foot down to drop the pack.
The Mr Consistency of Australian XCO, produced then fastest lap of the day with a 14m27seconds which put a 56 second gap into Cameron Ivory who had settled into second in front of Bowden, who has spent plenty of time in the saddle recently.
“Really wasn’t sure how I’d back up today.”
“That’s the sixth race in nine days on the mountain bike and definitely a bit of fatigue in the legs but couldn’t have asked for a better race than that today,” said Bowden who finished 1min13sec behind McConnell.
With, the current series rankings leader well out front, it was left to the risings stars of the sport to battle it out for the minor placing’s.
“I could see Cam ahead and once I caught him there wasn’t just respite he started going full gas and we really had a good battle then,” Bowden said.
That would only last until midway through the fifth lap before, last year’s national series winner in Bowden found another gear to move away and claim silver.
There’ll be no rest for McConnell ahead of Round 5 at Thredbo in two weeks time, he’s off across the ditch to contest the “7 Day Epic” Pioneer MTB Stage Race with New Zealand rival Anton Cooper.
“It should be pretty good training, cause we don’t get to have back to back races very often. Hopefully me and Anton can have a really good race next week and set our season up.”
Keen eyes may have spotted Aussie Trek Factory Racing riders Dan McConnell and Bec Henderson riding some prototype bikes early this season, but these were whisked away from sight too fast for us to confirm exactly what we saw.
Did we spy a new XC dually using the EVO/Full Floater suspension system? And was that a carbon hardtail using a decoupled seat tube junction like Trek’s Domane road bike? No way, that’d be too much awesome… Well, turns out it we saw BOTH, actually. They’re both coming for 2016, along with another bike for riders who mightn’t be quite so worried about going as fast as Dan McConnell.
Trek unveil three new bikes: the Top Fuel, Procaliber SL and completely revised Fuel 29
The Top Fuel is back! This incredible race bike disappeared from Trek’s range a few years ago, but for 2016 it’s making a return, replacing the ageing Superfly 100 platform (which we’ve tested extensively). The Top Fuel is entirely new beast with the sole purpose of tearing cross country race tracks apart and setting personal bests on trails all over the place.
It has 100mm of rear travel, adjustable geometry via a Mino Link and weighs only 1900g for the top end carbon frame. It’ll be available in aluminium and a women’s version, too.
Two shots - both landscape
Three shots - Big on top
Four Shots - Big on Left
Two shots - landscape and square
Three shots - Big landscape, two small squares
Four Shots - All Same Size
Two shots - vertically stacked, both landscape
The frame design brings the new Top Fuel in line with the rest of the dual suspension range from Trek (and represents a clean departure from the original designs from the Gary Fisher Collection), using the Full Floater/EVO Link controlling the rear shock and the rear wheel pivoting around the concentric ABP Pivot at the rear axle. This suspension system is one of the leading platforms on the market and we welcome its arrival to shorter travel applications.
Both the new Top Fuel and Procaliber SL will use Trek’s ‘Smart Wheel Size’ fit system, assigning the best wheel size to the frame size. Larger frame sizes from 17.5 and up will have 29” wheels while the smaller 15.5 size bike uses more proportional 27.5” wheels. The 29″ Top Fuel will also use the new Boost hub standard – wider hub spacing front and back – creating stiffer 29″ wheels, and adding tyre and chainring clearance, too.
The adjustable geometry is a neat touch – we wish more short-travel bikes came with adjustable geometry to let you dial in the ride performance you want. The geometry numbers are definitely racy – even in the slacker setting, the Top Fuel has a head angle of 70 degrees for razor sharp handling. What’s also cool is that the frame’s designed to accept an internally routed dropper post, which is a nod to the increasing interest in short-travel droppers in this market segment.
Seen the Trek Domane? This impressive endurance road bike frame broke the internet a couple years ago with technology we’d never seen before, but the moment we saw it it had us thinking how well it would translate into a hardtail race bike.
Essentially the new Procaliber SL is a carbon hardtail with up to 11mm of compliance via the IsoSpeed decoupler.
The IsoSpeed decoupler allows the seat tube to pivot and flex independently of the seatstays, taking the sting out of the trail without losing any pedalling power to a rear shock or stiffness to multiple moving parts and pivots. Trek claim the new frame is 70% more compliant than the existing Superfly hardtail.
We can only imagine how much you’ll be able to hammer this bike without it skipping around uncontrollably like a classic race hardtail usually would on loose surfaces. Needless to say we’ll be getting our hands on a test bike as soon as they land in Oz.
The Procaliber SL frame weighs 1012g around 100g heavier than the outgoing Superfly SL. While that figure makes it notably heavier than some of the competition, we’d imagine the compliance benefits will be well and truly worth it. Once again, the Smart Wheelsize System is used, with little wheels for littler riders, and 29″ hoops on frame sizes 17.5″ and up.
Like the Top Fuel, the Procaliber also scores the new internal cable housing system dubbed ‘Control Freak’. It’s Di2 compatible if you’ve got the good stuff, and a large port under the downtube means you’ll able to access and tie the internal cables together inside the frame to reduce unwanted rattling. Clever!
The Procaliber SL will replace the carbon Superfly hardtails, with the aluminium Superfly 5, 6 (WSD), 7 and 8 remaining in the range.
[divider]Fuel EX 29[/divider]
A Flow favourite, but not without a few niggles in our opinion, the Fuel EX 29 scores some nice tweaks for 2016, too. We’ll see Boost hubs to add stiffness, chainstays shortened from 452 down to 437mm (hooray!), the new internal cable management system and Mino Link geometry adjustment.
Interesting to note is that we won’t see Trek’s DRCV on the new Fuel EX 29. With FOX’s new Float DPS / EVOL rear shock, Trek were able to achieve their desired spring curve that was previously only possible with their proprietary DRCV shock. So going forward we’ll see standard shocks on the Fuel EX 29 at least – we wonder if this will also be the case on the Fuel 27.5 and Remedy?
It certainly sounds like Trek have made improvements in the areas that we wanted them to. Mind readers!
Will 2015 see another World Cup duel between perennial favourites Julian Absalon and Nino Schurter?
It was fitting that the two men that have dominated the men’s cross-country circuit in the last decade, France’s Julien Absalon and Switzerland’s Nino Schurter, fought out an epic 2014 edition of the UCI Mountain Bike Cross-Country World Cup.
Absalon and Schurter went into the seventh and round of last season, at Méribel, locked on three race wins each following a World Cup series dominated by the pair. Schurter finished the French race in first but behind him in second was Absalon, and with that finish the Frenchman secured the overall World Cup title for a sixth time.
There is no doubt that these two will continue to be right in front of the competition for the 2015 edition of World Cup. Younger by six years, Nino Schurter remains the hot favourite for the overall but given last season’s form you can’t rule out the 34-year-old Absalon springing more surprises.
The rest of the field has very much been left in the shadow of these two greats in recent years with no one really emerging as a consistent challenger. Australia’s Daniel McConnell, a winner in Albstadt in 2013 and a man who has finished second and third in the overall in 2013 and 2014 respectively, could be the one to break the Absalon-Schurter hegemony, while other names worth looking out for with an eye to a World Cup win are Germany’s Manuel Fumicand his Cannondale team-mate Marco Fontana.
Check the video above for a quick recap of the 2014 season as a teaser for this year’s World Cup.
Day three of the 2015 Subaru National Mountain Bike Championships, hosted by Mountain Bike Australia, saw spectacular action across Olympic Cross Country racing, Observed Trials and Downhill Seeding in the idyllic location of Bright, Victoria.
Day three of the 2015 Subaru National Mountain Bike Championships, hosted by Mountain Bike Australia, saw spectacular action across Olympic Cross Country racing, Observed Trials and Downhill Seeding in the idyllic location of Bright, Victoria.
Dan McConnell (ACT) and Rebecca Henderson (ACT) are true mountain bike champions, and today they delivered as champions do, defending their National Championships titles and once again earning themselves the green and gold jerseys.
In the Elite Men’s race, McConnell, Brendan Johnston (ACT) and Cameron Ivory (NSW) made a break from the get go, putting a small gap between themselves and the rest of the pack.
They led the other riders for the first half of the race, but on lap 3 teammates McConnell and Brendan Johnston (ACT) broke away from Ivory and the pair would race wheel-to-wheel until the very end.
The final lap was anyone’s game, but as McConnell is the third-ranked rider in the world and almost unbeatable at home, he found the extra energy to break away.
McConnell charged into the final straight, high fiving his fans as he crossed the finish line, to claim yet another National Championships jersey.
“Everything went really perfect,” said McConnell. “To be away with Trekky [Johnston] really early, we were able to just control the pace and dictate when we could put in the work and when we could recover a little bit. I’m really happy, not just for myself, but for Trekky to get second is awesome.
“I’ve never gone back to back before so this one is extra special,” McConnell explained. “I’ve really wanted this one for the last couple of months so to get a win and to be able to take the jersey overseas again is awesome.”
In the U23’s race, it was all about Tasmania’s Scott Bowden, who backed up his Oceania Championships title from just two weeks ago with National Championships glory.
A crash on lap 1 resulted in a gash on his right knee and removed the number plate from his bike, but Bowden was unstoppable, putting a 1m47s lead in front of the other U23 riders by the final lap, and in the process, completing an Australian season that is almost without peer in 2015.
Much like the Men’s, the Elite Women’s race turned into a challenge between top-ranked riders Henderson and Peta Mullens (VIC), who both went hard from the start, putting a 35.2 second gap between themselves and third and fourth placed riders Jenni King (VIC) and Jenny Fay (ACT).
Despite a small crash on the course, Henderson built this lead up to 50 seconds by the last lap, ensuring that she would once again be crowned the Elite Women’s National Champion.
“This one is really special,” said Henderson, speaking about retaining the title in her post-race interview. “Coming in as defending champion and Oceania champion, it was really important for me to have a good race.
“I came in with everything to lose and I was able to pull it together so I’m really happy.”
In third place was King, Fay finished fourth and Mountain Bike Australia’s Junior Development Coach Jodie Willett (QLD) rounded out the top five.
The most exciting finish of the day went to the U23 Women’s race, where Holly Harris (NSW) and Em Parkes (VIC) literally went head to head in a sprint finish for the title as they rounded Subaru corner on the third and final lap.
Riding in to what was an amazing photo finish, Parkes just edged out Harris on the line, finishing only centimetres in front to take the win.
The Bright Downhill course is renowned in the mountain bike world for being both technical and spectacular, and as we heard Connor Fearon (SA) say at the Oceania Championships in Toowoomba last month, it is “capable of hosting a World Cup”.
For the 2015 Subaru National Championships we are again lucky to be treated to a feast of Australian downhill royalty, with Tracey Hannah (QLD), Mick Hannah (QLD), Tegan Molloy (NSW), Troy Brosnan (SA) and Fearon all present and racing.
Downhill racing takes place over two days, with seeding held this afternoon and racing taking place tomorrow
Today’s action for the Elite Women saw defending national champion Tracey Hannah record the fastest time of 4:35.72, with Canadian Claire Buchar second in 4:59.10 and Oceania champion Molloy third in 5:15.13.
Brosnan is the hot favourite in the Elite Men’s race and today he did not disappoint fans, setting the fastest time for seeding, 3:56.22.
Fearon was a very close second, 0.21 seconds behind Brosnan, and Dean Lucas (VIC) was third in 4:03.46.
Observed Trials Finals
Today also saw the start of the spectator-favourite Observed Trials competition, with the valued 20 inch title up for grabs.
Taking out the title with exceptional riding was Nathan Mummery (VIC), and finishing runner up in the closest of competitions was Andrew Dickey (VIC), with Lachlan Sens (VIC) in third.
The Expert category was raced combined with women’s action, and it is no surprise that trials superstar Janine Jungfels (QLD) took the win.
Second place in expert went to Mitch Ho (NSW) and Kyle Rolands (QLD) finished third.
Final day action
Action on the final day of the of the Subaru Mountain Bike National Championships will be headlined as always by the downhill finals – with Group B racing at 1.30pm and Group A at 3.30pm.
Excitingly, the Group A finals will also be live streamed via the Mountain Bike Australia website at mtba.asn.au/livestream, allowing fans around the world to follow along.
Spectators in Bright will also be treated to a feast of Cross Country Short Course, Cross Country Eliminator and Observed Trials 26 inch action.
Anyone is welcome free of charge to watch and cheer along here at Mystic MTB Park in Bright, Victoria.
All information about the event can be found online at:
The first day of the final round of mountain bike racing in the Subaru National Series for 2014-15 was contested under the hot Queensland sun in Toowoomba on Saturday, with the event presented by Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA).
The series has travelled Australia, starting in December 2014, and racing took place in both Cross Country and Downhill disciplines.
Elite Men’s Cross Country
Dan McConnell (ACT) is the third-ranked cross country rider in the world, and as such starts any race he enters across the world as one of the favourites – and on home turf, McConnell is almost unstoppable.
The Elite Men’s race started smoothly in the midday heat, with a lead bunch of five riders, including McConnell and New Zealand National Champion Anton Cooper.
McConnell, crowned this week as the Oceania Champion, is renowned for starting steadily and then maintaining a pace that other riders cannot sustain over the duration of the race.
Today’s race ran to this familiar plan, with McConnell breaking away from the bunch on lap four to create a lead that would never be challenged.
“In the middle of the race I was able to get to the front at the start of the climb, open the legs a little bit and get a gap,” said McConnell.
“From there I was able to ride comfortably to the finish”.
Second behind McConnell was again Cooper, with third place going to 2013-14 National Series winner Cameron Ivory (NSW).
Scott Bowden (TAS) landed in Toowoomba as the National Series leader, and with a strong ride to fourth place, he will be leaving Queensland as the overall Elite Men’s Subaru National Series winner.
“I was hoping that I could get on the podium fairly consistently and be in the top five but I wouldn’t have even dreamt of taking out the series this year,” said Bowden.
“It exceeded all my expectations and I’m just over the moon”.
Ivory and Brendan Johnston (ACT) rounded out the top three overall series winners.
Both men finished the series on level points, but second was awarded to Ivory on countback.
Under 19 action saw Liam Jeffries (VIC) win both today’s race and the overall National Series crown in a dominant fashion, with four wins from five races, and today he incredibly rode without a seat-post and saddle for most of the final lap.
Elite Women’s Cross Country
The women’s race was a star-studded affair, with the very best riders from Australia and New Zealand stacked across the front row of the startline.
Kiwi young gun Amber Johnston (NZ) rode hard from the start to lead the riders into the forest, where proceedings were broken open early by the experienced New Zealand power duo of Kate Fluker and Karen Hanlen.
Fluker has form this week after riding to a strong silver behind Henderson on Thursday in the Oceania Championships, and was again strong today surging to the lead at the end of lap two.
On lap three she further accelerated and established a lead that would ultimately be insurmountable.
“I was maybe four or five deep on the single track but I really utilised that grassy climb,” said Fluker. “I have to use my strengths the best I can and I love climbing so I made sure I went hard where I could.
“Amber Johnston, the New Zealand U23 Champion, was out in front and I said to her ‘Amber I’m behind you’ and she pulled over for me and let me pass. Kiwi’s are pretty good at working together”.
The Subaru National Series title was on the line today and fittingly it was our two best athletes of recent years in contention, Rebecca Henderson (ACT) and Peta Mullens (VIC).
Henderson, the 2014 Commonwealth Games Bronze medallist, walked away with the spoils, adding the overall National Series title to the Oceania title she won 48 hours earlier at the same venue.
“I’m really happy to win my first National Series – it’s really cool,” said an ecstatic Henderson.
In under 19 action, New Zealand’s Jemma Manchester capped off a successful trip, adding today’s Subaru National Series round win to Thursday’s Oceania Champion title.
Worthy of note in the youngest category is the prodigious Zoe Cuthbert, who today completed a whitewash of the Under 15 series with performances that often saw her battling with Elite riders.
Downhill racing will take place with riders today participating in a seeding event to both earn points towards their Subaru National Series rankings and also decide the start order for Sunday.
In the Men’s event, Jared Graves (QLD) was fastest with a time of 2m39.60s, while Richie Rude Jr (USA) and Connor Fearon (SA) rounded out the top three.
For the Women, Tegan Molloy (NSW) seeded quickest in 3m12.79s, with Michelle Crisp (NSW) in second and Kellie Weinert (NSW) in third.
Spectators are welcome free of charge here at Jubilee Mountain Bike Park, with Sunday’s racing to include both Short Course Cross Country and Downhill racing.
Australia’s two best cross-country mountain bike riders, Rebecca Henderson (ACT) and Dan McConnell (ACT), rode dominantly to Oceania titles in Toowoomba, Queensland, today at the 2015 Oceania Mountain Bike Championships, hosted by Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA).
McConnell was the hot favourite for the Elite Men’s title, being the third ranked cross-country mountain bike rider in the world and holding an impressive five Oceania Elite titles before today’s race even started. But competition was always going to be tight, with the Men’s field starring New Zealand National Champion and 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anton Cooper and Cairns World Cup Cross-Country Eliminator winner Sam Gaze (NZ).
For the first two laps the three men were neck and neck, as they were at last year’s Commonwealth Games, but this time McConnell was the first to make his move, going early and pushing hard on lap three. “It was always going to be really fast off the start with Sam and Anton,” explained McConnell. “I was able to settle in with them and the pace was fairly inconsistent and fast, it was fairly cat and mouse. “I think at the third lap I was able to get to the front at the start of the climb and put a bit of pace on. Once I was away by myself it was a lot easier to get away and just ride my pace and settle in.”
McConnell rode to a very convincing championship win from Cooper, acknowledging the day’s weather was tough on all riders, as evidenced by both Paul van der Ploeg (VIC) and Gaze withdrawing mid-race. “It was super hard conditions, there’s not really any breeze once you get into the trees – I’m not sure you could get much tougher than this,” said McConnell.
Third place in the Elite Men went to Cameron Ivory (NSW). Scott Bowden (TAS) took the Oceania title for Australia in the U23 Men’s race, after the initial leader Harrison Ersnt (NZ) fell away with a flat tyre early in the race.
In the Elite Women’s cross-country race, it was the battle of the National Champions, with Australia’s own Henderson (ACT) going head to head with New Zealand Champion Kate Fluker.
The two female cross-country stars led the field for the entire race, with 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Henderson sitting just in front of Fluker. For the first half of the race there were only 13 seconds between the two, but Henderson extended this gap to 43 seconds by lap three, creating a lead which Fluker was unable to close. Despite extreme Queensland heat, Henderson, who has four Oceania titles at the Under 23 level, appeared to cruise to her first Elite gold medal.
“I’m very relieved to take the win today and obviously take my first Oceania Elite title,” said Henderson. “I was able to beat the girls a couple of years ago when I was in U23s but last year it just slipped away from me and Karen rode away on the last lap so I was watching my back for the whole day today and really working hard.” Fluker took home the silver medal for New Zealand, while three-time consecutive Oceania title winner Karen Hanlen (NZ) secured bronze.
In the U23 Women’s race it was New Zealand’s Amber Johnston who took out the Oceania title, moving steadily through the field.
The wins by Henderson and McConnell gain additional significance with each win securing an invaluable position for Australia on the mountain bike startline at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The best mountain bike riders from the Oceania region will continue to do battle in Toowoomba over the next three days, before the action heads to Bright, Victoria for the 2014/15 Subaru Oceania Mountain Bike Championships.
For all Oceania and Series information, please visit:
Off the back of yet another successful year of racing for Trek Racing Australia we are excited to announce a financial commitment of $300,000 over the next three years to the Team from our founding and long term supporters, the Peil Family.
2014 saw Trek Racing Australia rider’s claim 7 National titles across XCO, XCM and 24hr Solo categories, representation at UCI MTB World Cups, UCI MTB World Champs, and the Commonwealth Games. Coupled with dominant performances like those achieved at the Kowalski Classic and the Highland Fling by Brendan Johnston & Dylan Cooper the Team is in a very strong position to keep moving forward.
Combined with the unrivalled support from industry leading companies like Trek Bicycle Corp Australia, Shimano Australia, Anytime Fitness, FOX, GU Energy Labs, Finish Line Lube and Aussie Butt, contrary to rumors, the Team is now very well funded until 2019.
Our absolute focus is to continue supporting Australian Mountain bikers. Our plan is to run frequent Junior Skills Development camps and use our Elite riders to mentor junior mountain bikers throughout the country. Our number one goal is to keep our riders on mountain bikes, give them a pathway to the world stage and decrease the bleeding of so much of this country’s mountain biking talent to the road.
Dan McConnell of Australia will be part of their seven-man lineup for the Tour Down Under in January. McConnell races for the Trek Factory Racing XC program which, same as the UCI ProTour team, is owned and managed by Trek Bicycle.
McConnell finished the 2014 season on a high note, placing third overall in the XC World Cup, and taking the start in Australia’s only WorldTour event will give him an intense and early boost to the 2015 season.
McConnell: “This is super exciting for me. I participated in TDU back in 2006 with Team South Australia. It was incredibly hot, but more than anything I remember the crowds in and around Adelaide; they were just phenomenal.
“Mountain bikers spend quite a bit of time on a road bike, especially when we build endurance in the months before the World Cup season starts in May. At this time of the year, I probably ride 70 percent of the time on my Trek Domane,” says McConnell. “Of course, a 90 minutes maximum effort with an average heart rate of over 180 is very different than a 150km stage with a sprint at the end. It’s sort of hard to know where I’ll be. At the national road championships I go pretty well, and that’s on a hilly course.”
For Team Manager Luca Guercilena, McConnell’s selection is one of many benefits of factory management between two world-class programs. “Trek owns a handful of cycling teams, and they all compete under the Trek Factory Racing umbrella. These crossover projects are very valuable. Grégory Rast rode a cyclocross race the other day, and Sven Nys swaps cyclocross for mountain bike and road cycling in summer.”
TFR cross-country manager Jon Rourke agrees: “When Dan approached me with this idea, I thought it was great. Luca was receptive too, so we didn’t have to push this down anybody’s throat.”
McConnell isn’t the first mountain biker to ride on the road, temporarily or in a more definite way. “The unique element is that Trek owns both programs, which allows for a much more seamless participation of riders into either disciplines without major hassles or sponsorship conflict worries,” says Rourke. “Some people might say ‘Oh boy, here’s another mountain biker going on the dark side’, but Dan still loves the dirt, and this race works into his favor for his mountain bike schedule. We support this opportunity and know Dan is fully committed to mountain bike racing – especially as he prepares for the Olympic Games in Rio2016. It’s nice that these mountain bikers get to drop in and have fun and then go back. At the end of the day, we all love to ride bikes: road or mountain.”
“This is a great opportunity for all parties involved,” agrees Team Manager Luca Guercilena, who has a background as a performance coach. “I saw Dan’s power output numbers and I’m curious to see how Dan will fare in a stage race on the road. A mountain bike race is a highly anaerobic event, significantly more so than road racing, but there are similarities. Especially when it comes down to climbing it will be interesting. It’s more an individual effort, a bit like a time trial, and Dan can produce consistent high power for a long period of time, so I’d say the climbing stages will be favorable for him.”
Trek Factory Racing’s lineup for the 2015 Tour Down Under:
Eugenio Alafaci (Italy) Marco Coledan (Italy) Laurent Didier (Luxembourg) Daniel McConnell (Australia) Giacomo Nizzolo (Italy) Hayden Roulston (New Zealand) Calvin Watson (Australia)
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. 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
The seventh and final round of the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup wrapped up the overall series in Meribel, France this weekend after a fierce weekend of racing where Australia’s top riders featured heavily on the round and series podiums.
The UCI World Cup Series included events in seven countries, across four continents, with riders contesting rounds in the Olympic Cross Country, Downhill and Cross Country Eliminator disciplines.
On a very fast and rocky track that descended 550m in 2100m length, it was Sam Hill (Chain Reaction Cycles.com/Nukeproof) who shone on the weekend, winning the round and proving to the world that he is back to his best.
Hill is a dual World Cup Series winner (2007, 2009) and broke an almost four year World Cup race win drought earlier this month by taking first place in Mont-Sainte-Anne in Canada.
Following close behind was Adelaide-born Troy Brosnan (Specialized Racing DH), who rounded out a stellar 2014 by recording a career-best Word Cup Series performance of third overall, one point in front of friend and former teammate Hill.
Brosnan took the podium in five of the seven World Cup races on the way to his third place, winning in Fort William, UK and recording a third place in Leogang, Austria and Windham, USA.
The overall winner of the men’s downhill series was Josh Bryceland (Santa Cruz Syndicate).
In the women’s downhill, Australia’s Tracey Hannah (Hutchinson UR) finished fourth after an exciting World Cup season, which included podium places in five of the seven races, as well as winning the Canadian Open DH at Crankworx this year.
In the overall rankings, it was Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen Factory Team) who held on for the win.
In the junior women’s, fellow Australian Tegan Molloy was the stand out star, earning the Junior World Cup Series winner crown.
Molloy recorded five wins from the seven races, riding to her best finish in the Series in Canada to finish 11th in the Elite field with a time of 5:32.750, an exceptional result from the young NSW rider.
In the cross-country, Australia’s Dan McConnell (Trek Factory Racing) secured back-to-back UCI World Cup Series podiums finishing third overall for 2014, after taking the podium four times across the Series.
McConnell had a best finish of 3rd place in Mont-Saint-Anne in Canada and only narrowly missed out on making the podium in the last round, coming in at sixth place.
World Cup series leader Julien Absalon (BMC) and World Champion Nino Schurter (Scott Odlo) remarkably won all seven events between them this year.
Absalon held on for the win, securing his sixth overall World Cup Series title.
In the Under 23 men, Australia’s Cam Ivory placed 22nd overall in a series including some challenges, a great result.
Australia’s Bec Henderson (Trek Factory Racing) had her debut year at Elite level and had an excellent year to finish inside the top 20. The highlight of her World Cup year was on home soil during the third round in Cairns, crossing the line in 10th place.
Jolanda Neff (Liv Pro XC) was the overall winner for the women’s Cross Country.
Starting on the Friday, and kicking off the final round of races in Meribel, was the Cross Country Eliminator, a 725m course that saw riders taking a gondola to the start line.
In the men’s overall standings, it was Australia’s Paul Van der Ploeg, the reigning World Champion, who would shine with a fourth place in the overall series.
Van der Ploeg had a solid World Cup season, medalling in each of the first three rounds and making the podium in four.
Fabrice Mels (Salcano Alanya) was crowned the elite men’s champion and Kathrin Stirnemann (Sabine Spitz Haibike) was victorious in the elite women’s series.
The trials UCI World Cup Series is currently at the midpoint, and Australia’s Janine Jungfels took the honours with an outstanding win in Meribel, taking the honours in the third round of the five race series.
The mountain bike world’s attention now switches to the World Championships, which starts in Norway on September 2nd.
McConnell and Henderson clinch bronze medals in exciting day at Cathkin Braes MTB Park in Glasgow.
Australian mountain biking duo Daniel McConnell and Bec Henderson found the podium in a thrilling day of cross country mountain biking at Cathkin Braes MTB Trails overlooking Glasgow.
Victoria’s McConnell clinched Australia’s first ever men’s Commonwealth Games mountain bike medal with bronze in the men’s event, while Canberra’s Henderson also claimed bronze in the women’s race, just the second medal for women in the discipline.
The men completed seven, and the women six, laps of a five-kilometre course of the Cathkin Braes Country Park, with thousands of fans flocking to watch races, despite dark clouds, periodic rain and blustery winds. The riders had to negotiate a tricky course that featured the Brig O’Doom, Broken Biscuits, and Clyde Climbs— all named by local schoolchildren.
In a nail-biting climax to a sensational men’s race, McConnell, 28, was out-kicked in the dying few hundred metres by the New Zealand pair of Anton Cooper and Samuel Gaze.
“Obviously I’m happy to walk away with a bronze medal, it wasn’t quite the colour I was after but I was just out-matched today by the Kiwi boys who rode really smart and tactical and I didn’t quite have the power to go with them,” McConnell said.
Earlier in the 35km battle which featured 33 riders from 18 nations, McConnell was forced to bridge a small gap created by a small group of leading riders a lap and a half into the seven-lap race. For much of the remaining five laps, McConnell went toe-to-toe with the lead group of four which included the Kiwi duo and Canadian Max Plaxton. The quartet became three inside the final lap, with the teenage Cooper attacking Gaze and McConnell with just 500 hundred metres remaining.
McConnell had no answer, with Copper crossing the line in a time of 1hour 38:26secs, three seconds ahead of Gaze with McConnell a further seven seconds back.
“It was a hard race, a fast course and I put all my eggs in that basket and it didn’t quite pan out, but I walk away with bronze so it’s not too bad,” McConnell said. “I had to put in a pretty big effort to bridge the gap, but I was still feeling pretty good and that was only the first lap-and-a-half. “It was a build up over the day, I really tried in the middle part of the race to break it up, but (with) the speed of the course there’s a lot of drafting and I couldn’t use where I’m strongest on the climbs to get the gap.
“(But) There’s not really an excuse today I just didn’t quite have the legs to go with them at the end,” added McConnell.
In other great results for Australia, Newcastle’s Cam Ivory finished in eighth, and Canberra’s Andy Blair in twelfth to finish a great day for Australian mountain biking.
Similarly to the men’s race, an Australian was faced with a battle against team mates, with Canberra’s Henderson, 22, outgunned by the Canadian duo of Catherine Pendrel and Emily Batty. 21 riders from eleven countries set out on the women’s race, with Pendrel, the 2011 world champion quickly establishing a lead of half a minute by the end of the first of six laps.
Together, Henderson and her Trek-Factory teammate Batty worked hard to pursue Pendrel but were unable reel her in. Pendrel cruised to cross in 1hr 39:29secs, just over a minuted ahead of Emily Batty who got over Henderson by twelve seconds.
“I’m so excited, this is my first Commonwealth Games and first medal and it’s such a privilege to be here and an amazing experience and I’m so happy, “ said Henderson who equalled Australia’s only medal in the Commonwealth Games mountain bike prior to day – Mary Grigson’s bronze at the 2002 event in Manchester.
“Catharine took off at the start and I was going to go with her and I thought ‘I don’t want to get caught in no man’s land’ but I kind of did,” she explained. “But I backed off and Emily caught up and we started working together to try to catch her.
“In the last two laps it was definitely on and I was there to defend the third place, I wasn’t going to let that go.”
Victoria’s Peta Mullens finished twelfth and Tory Thomas 14th.
Dual mountain bike Olympian Daniel McConnell, currently ranked number one in the Commonwealth and fourth in the world, and Rebecca Henderson who has flourished in the MTB World Cup Series over the past few seasons, head a six-member cross-country mountain bike team.
Peta Mullens, Tory Thomas, Andrew Blair and Cameron Ivory have also been selected.
Third win for Schurter in Nove Mesto – he attacks from outset.
The men’s race was expected to be a showdown between Julien Absalon (BMC), winner of the first two rounds, and World Champion Schurter, who flatted in the first round and skipped the second for a stint on the road. Schurter threw the gauntlet down by attacking immediately, and was in the lead by the first lap.
The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano returned to Europe for Round 3 of the cross-country series under almost perfect weather conditions in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic, and the riders responded with superb racing. Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Liv Pro XC) took the first Elite victory of her career in the women’s race.
Ferrand Prevot, an Under-23 rider who is competing in the Elite category, charged to the front on the opening start loop from back on the fifth row in the start order, and had a slight gap on Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida), World Cup leader Jolanda Neff (Liv Pro XC) and Alexandra Engen (Ghost Factory) as they started the first of five laps. Her gap steadily increased through the race, as she consistently laid down the fastest lap times on every lap.
Victoria’s Daniel McConnell has finished in 42nd place in the elite men’s cross country race at the 2013 UCI MTB and Trials World Championships held in in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on Saturday.
The race was won in emphatic fashion by Switzerland’s Nino Schurter over Germany’s Manuel Fumic and Spain’s José Antonio Hermida Ramos.
“I think I didn’t have the legs all day, I sort of went into some lactic early and never recovered,” said the dual-Olympian McConnell, who finished almost ten minutes off the pace of leaders. “Even when I backed off and forgot about the race and just tried to get around, I just didn’t have it.
“It’s a good course you just need to be on it. The pace was obviously full on at the front, not that I really could see it.
“Certainly not how I planned my weekend, so it’s pretty disappointing,” the 28-year-old added.
A field of 76 riders set out for seven laps of the three kilometre course held in perfect conditions around the Cascades MTB Park.
As expected, Schurter announced his rainbow jersey intentions from the start, with the Swiss rider bolting from the gates to take an early lead on the field before powering to the finish unchallenged.
“The course was good, it was running pretty fast, probably the best it’s been all week,” explained McConnell, who entered the Championships slightly battered after coming to ground during a training ride late last week, caused by a group of monkeys on the road.
“(My body) It hasn’t been smooth since then (the crash), but I guess now I have to regroup in two weeks for Norway, that has to be the goal from now.”
McConnell is referring to the final round of the 2013 UCI World Cup season to be held in Norway in two weeks.
The Victorian currently sits third on the overall standings after his win in the opening round in Albstadt, Germany, and a recent fifth place in Mont Saint Anne in Canada earlier this month.
“The training has throughout the year has been good and I think I have proved that, so I just have to keep my head on until Norway,” he said.
“I have been around the top ten more than half the time, so obviously I can regroup and get another solid result and finish 2013 on a high.”
Australia’s Paul Van Der Ploeg finished in 61st place after withdrawing on lap four. The Victorian was caught behind a crash on the opening straight and was unable to recover ground on the leading bunch.
Van Der Ploeg will now refocus ahead of tomorrow’s Eliminator Championships in which he will be the lone representative for Australia.
The UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships takes place at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from 26 August to 1 September 2013.