Elite women's mountain bike race podium at the Commonwealth Games: Emily Batty, Catharine Pendrel, Rebecca Henderson
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First ever medals for Henderson and McConnell
First it was Rebecca Henderson winning bronze at the Commonwealth Games mountain bike race for Australia then just hours later, it was Dan McConnell replicating the results in the men’s race. McConnell’s medal was the first ever for a male in the discipline at the Commonwealth Games while Henderson’s medal was just the second for Australia and equalled Mary Grigson's bronze at the 2002 event in Manchester.
Henderson was up against her Canadian Trek teammate Emily Batty, who along with countrywomen Catherine Pendrel, ensured it would be a tough race. Pendrel, the 2011 world champion, quickly built a lead over the other 20 riders in the race to hold a 30 second advantage over the field after the first of six laps at Cathkin Braes MTB Park in Glasgow.
Batty and Henderson managed to reel in Pendrel after a long chase but the Canadian wasn't going to let go of gold and again slipped clear to win the race by just over a minute. Batty then escaped from Henderson to seal a Canadian one-two, but as Henderson explained she was pleased by her result.
"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.
"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 added. "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."
Australia's other representation in the race were Victoria's Peta Mullens who finished twelfth while Tory Thomas was 14th.
In the men's afternoon race, McConnell found himself battling the New Zealand duo of Anton Cooper and Samuel Gaze who used their numerical advantage to out manoeuvre the Australian. After a tense final lap, Cooper attacked his companions with just 500 hundred metres remaining with McConnell unable to match the acceleration as he explained.
"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.
"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."
Earlier in the 35km race, which featured 33 riders from 18 nations, McConnell bridged across a gap created by a small group of leading riders a lap-and-a-half into the seven-lap race. For the majority of the remaining laps in the race, McConnell then went toe-to-toe with the lead group of four, including the Kiwi duo and Canadian Max Plaxton.
"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," McConnell added.
"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."
Newcastle's Cam Ivory finished the race in eighth place while Canberra's Andy Blair was twelfth to cap off a successful day of racing for Australia.
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