In what was a drought-ending win for Australia in last weekend's World Cup opener in Albstadt, Dan McConnell is ready to be in the mix when he takes to the front row at this weekend's second round in Novo Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic. The victory was in a sense a historic one with the result giving Australia its first World Cup XC win since Cadel Evans in 2000 while also proving McConnell his biggest result to date - having rounded-out the top-20 just once prior to his win on the muddy and slick course in Germany.
With the World Cup now in full swing and a team that allows McConnell to concentrate fully on the fine details of training and racing, the three-time Oceania champion arrives in Czech as the number-one ranked rider on the circuit.
"It still feels pretty crazy that I won the first World Cup of the season and am leading the World Cup series," McConnell told Cyclingnews. "It has been a long time since Australia has won a World Cup in cross country so it's very special, hopefully this is going to help motivate the next generation of mountain bikers and help Australia to become one of the dominant countries like it was in the late 90's.
"I don't think I can put the Albstadt result down to just one thing. A big factor is the Trek Factory Team and their support which this allows me to concentrate purely on my riding and making sure I get to the start line ready to go. Besides a few slight changes with training it has been pretty similar to previous years. I think it's just all those ‘one per-cent' extras that are really starting to add up."
Contesting for the win this weekend is certainly an objective for the Trek Factory Racing rider but he admits his ultimate goal remains, as it was before the start of his 2013 campaign to get "results in the top-20" before adding "obviously if the chance comes up to mix it at the front I won't hold back," he told Cyclingnews.
Thanks to his win last weekend McConnell will get to experience an almost entirely different start to his next race. He'll be on the front of the grid when the 140-rider field is put in the hands of the man with the starting-gun.
"This weekend is going to be a bit different to any other World Cup I have raced, I'll be starting front row which I have never experienced before," he said.
"It is possibly the biggest World Cup of the year and one that every rider would love to win. I think you can definitely expect to see all of the top-ten riders in the mix in the first few laps. The course is really tough with four main climbs, 220 vertical metres each lap, rock gardens and if it is wet, there are a lot of roots that can cause chaos.
"I'm really looking forward to it and am hoping for a clean, smooth race. Ill be doing my all to put myself in a position for the best outcome."