Beijing Olympian Daniel McConnell of Victoria won the men's cross country at the Australian national championships in Adelaide on Saturday. As the only mountain bike event on the Olympic program, there was more than the coveted green and gold jersey at stake with each performance between now and London sure to leave an lasting impression on the minds of national selectors.
For McConnell, who won the Under 17 Australian title in 2001, it was a commanding win and his first national championship gold medal at the elite level.
"It's great. It's been a long time coming," said McConnell. "I've been working towards this for a few months. I really wanted this, so to come out with the gold medal I'm just stoked."
Of his longer term objectives, he went on to say "Beijing was awesome. Once you go to one Olympics, you want to go to more, so that's definitely my goal."
The 24-year-old got off to a flying start and managed to avoid a first corner crash that blocked the track for everyone caught behind it.
"There wasn't a lot of passing so I knew I had to get off to a good start and try to set the early pace which I did," he said. "After a lap I opened a gap of five seconds and kept building on that, that was the goal and it worked out brilliantly."
McConnell's main challenger throughout the race was 2002, 2004 and 2006 winner, Sid Taberlay, who stayed in contact for the first three of the six laps of the race but couldn't maintain the pace and fell away to finish fourth. On the difficult course, he also crashed on the fifth lap.
In the second half of the race, last year's Under 23 champion Lachlan Norris demonstrated his ever increasing strength as he overtook Taberlay and went on to claim the silver medal one minute and 35 seconds behind the winner.
A surprising bronze medal went to little-known Joshua Carlson from Wollongong. Carlson rode his first mountain bike race in 2007 and his first national championships last year where he finished 29th.
Having dropped from 86kg to 75kg in the past 12 months, Carlson said, "I want a brownie" shortly after crossing the line.
The Under 23 category in the men's race was won by Paul van der Ploeg, who at age 20, is quickly becoming one of Australia's most likely contenders on the world stage.
The national championship racing will wrap up with the short track on Sunday.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|2||Lachlan Norris (Drapac Porsche)||0:01:35|
|3||Paul Van Der Ploeg* (Felt Bicycles, SRAM Components)||0:02:49|
|4||Joshua Carlson (Total Rush Factory Specialised)||0:03:01|
|6||Aiden Lefmann (Cannondale,)||0:04:33|
|7||Jason English (Clarence St Cyclery, Shimano, Trek)||0:04:35|
|8||Dylan Cooper (TREK Concepts.com.au Fictive.com.au)||0:04:36|
|10||Andrew Blair (Redshift Racing, KOM, SRAM, Jetblack, Maxxis)||0:04:57|
|14||Perren Delacour (OnyaBike Belconnen & Civic )||0:07:00|
|16||Neil Van Der Ploeg||0:10:44|
|17||Matthew Fleming (Clarence St Cyclery, Shimano, Trek)||0:11:25|
|18||Scott Liston (FELT, SRAM, Pinacle Cycles)||0:12:47|
|19||Merlin Spranz* (B.-d. Farm Paris Creek Bio-Mechanics)||0:13:18|
|20||James Williamson (Giant)||0:14:59|
|22||Brenton Jones* (Torq Australia)||0:15:29|
|28||Steele Von Hoff||0:19:10|
|29||Matt Ligtermoet (Rush Racing Specialized Sram)||0:19:18|
|-2laps||Ben Henderson (Crowne Plaza Canberra,Onya Bike)|
|-2laps||John Groves (Apollo Bikes)|