Harris And Johnston Break National Elite Series Drought

It also marked the continued dominance of Cameron Wright (QLD) in the Junior Men, as the 16 year old again produced a scintillating ride to make it five straight victories.

For Harris, who is competing in her first year of elite competition, it was the win she’d been waiting for as the Armidale rider took up the challenge to defending series champion Rebecca Henderson.

“I was sitting in behind Bec feeling alright and my team-mate Kathryn (McInerney) made a big attack and I sort of followed her and then somehow I took off on the front.”

However, Harris had to hold off more than the challenges from the chasing pack as the final of the five laps approached on a dry and dusty Mt Taylor course.

“I sort of remembered the mistake I make every single race and that’s blowing up so I tried to not do that.”

Hunting her down was Jodie Willett (QLD), who made her move on the fourth lap and was closing.

“I’ve been here helping with the MTBA junior squad and I think it’s a bit inspiring, I was riding on inspiration as it’s their first race and it inspired me to get involved and give it a go.”

The last time Willett medalled in the national series was at Pemberton two years ago.

Harris finished in a time of 1:29:52 ahead of Willett and McInerney, with Henderson more than three minutes back in fourth.

It’s been a big week for the dual Olympian, having signed on with a new bike sponsor Scott earlier in the week.

“There’s been a lot going on and it’s been a pretty stressful time trying to get everything together, and today I was just really low on energy.”

“These back to back races aren’t doing me any favours, and I’m just struggling to recover and it’s taking its toll the next couple of weeks.”

No such trouble for Johnston, who in only his third race this series stormed off the start line and held his place at the front of the 25 man field.

“I was lucky to be at the front and fortunate not to consume too much dust,” he remarked.

After back to back seconds at Armidale, Johnston again attacked from the race gun and this time it would pay off with Tasman Nankervis (VIC) and Reece Tucknott (WA) unable to real the Canberran back in as he crossed the line in a time of 1:26:47, more than 30 seconds in front of the minor places.

“It’s my first ever elite win and it’s something I’ve maybe thought it was out of the question in the era of Dan McConnell, but the rest of us are starting to really challenge him and I’m just really happy.”

Nankervis, who finished second here last year, tried to match it with Johnston early in the six lap race.

“First lap was ok, then I had a stack into a tree and Trekky was going that solid I couldn’t catch him again.”

“Lately I’ve been doing a lot of training for these types of races and haven’t tapered at all, and I think it might work in my favour,” warned Nankervis ahead of Round 6 on Sunday.

In the junior men, Wright’s purple patch of form continued, as he produced the third fastest overall lap time of the day and accounted for another stacked junior men’s field.

Despite his untarnished record this season, the Brisbane-based rider wasn’t expecting to again dominate a talented field.

“Going into the season I’ve been feeling really strong but I actually had my doubts today.”

Cameron Wright once again won the Junior Men's category.
Cameron Wright once again won the Junior Men’s category.

Another junior relishing the Australian season is New Zealand’s Jessica Manchester (NZL).

The diminutive Kiwi was again unstoppable as she racked up another victory on foreign soil and is heavily backed to claim the Oceania title in two weeks time.

Flashing Finish For Henderson

The duo were locked together heading into the last of the 5 laps around the 6 km course, before it came down to the final 50m.

“The outside line wasn’t ideal but I was able to carry that little bit of extra speed and thankfully it was a little quicker,” Henderson admitted.

“It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had a sprint finish.”

The Canberra rider got home by eight hundredths of a second with time of 1:37:08:24.

For Kwan, it was foreign territory out in front battling for the lead with the dual Olympian.

“I’ve never been in that position before, so this is a first for me and it’s given me a big confidence boost.”

“I thought I might try and get in front to try and control the pace, and I didn’t want her to get too far ahead so popping out into the open section I knew I might as well go,” said Kwan.

It was local favourite Holly Harris (NSW) who took up the challenge to Henderson early and tried to pull away on lap three before the reigning national series champion made her move.

“I just used that rock garden to get a little bit of a gap and got away again and then Eliza caught me through the pedally section.”

While in the elite men Jared Graves (QLD) was a late withdrawal from Round 4 through illness, which left it a battle between Dan McConnell (ACT), Cameron Ivory (NSW), and Brendan Johnston (ACT), and it was the Novocastrian Ivory who made it back to back victories in the New England.

“I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull up after yesterday but I was happy to find the form and managed to pull Trekky back,” Ivory said.

Ivory finished in a time of 1:21:59:85, with Johnston in second and Ben Oliver (NZ) holding out for third.

Riders were faced with only five laps on a fast and flowy course with only a few technical rock features, the section where Ivory proved his legs were up to speed.

“Just in that punchy section he’s at another level than me and I tried to hang on through the rocky section and get away but he mowed me down and he was just too strong for me in that part of the race,” said Johnston, who notched up his second runner-up place of the weekend.

There was no change in the junior men and women’s results, with Cameron Wright (QLD) showing his turn of pace to wrap up another top of the podium finish, ahead of Matt Dinham (NSW) and Kian Lerch-Mackinnon (VIC).

In the junior women’s race, Jessica Manchester (NZ) had to fight off Armidale favourite Katherine Hosking (NSW) in a sprint to the line earlier in the day.

Dry, Dusty Racing In Orange As The XCO National Series Kicks Off

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.”

Anna beck took the win in the Elite Women's race on Sunday.
Anna Beck took the win in the Elite Women’s race on Sunday.

“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.