Henderson and McConnell win Mt. Buller cross country

Olympians kick off their Australian season with victories

Dan McConnell and Bec Henderson won the the elite cross country races at round 2 of the Subaru Australian Mountain Bike National Season at Mt Buller on Saturday. Both made it two-in-a-row for the weekend after also winning Friday's eliminator.

Elite men

In the elite men's race, the hot favourites were always McConnell and Jared Graves. McConnell had a landmark year in 2013, winning the first UCI World Cup round of 2013 in Germany, and racing well through the year to finish second in the World Cup Series. This was the best result for an Australian since Cadel Evans in 1999.

Graves won the first round of the Australian series in Adelaide. While better known as a living legend in the gravity side of the sport, the former four cross world champion and excellent downhill racer has been focusing on fitness as a key element to develop to ensure his good results in enduro racing continue.

Graves led from the start line climb, and held a 16-second lead at the end of lap 1. A race pattern developed for the first few laps, with Graves extending his lead each lap on the technical descents that are a feature of the first half of the Buller course. The chase group of McConnell, Michael Crosbie, Cameron Ivory and Dylan Cooper would then consistently contract the lead on the steep climbs of the latter half.

The unknown element at this stage was whether Graves could maintain the pace on a course more suited to the specialist climbers like McConnell.

Nearing the end of lap 4 of 7, McConnell made the widely predicted move in the singletrack to take the lead, and then over a small road climb to the finish area, he accelerated and established a seven-second lead. He would ride confidently to extend this lead over the remaining laps to give the dual Olympian his first win for 2014.

"It's good to start the season with a win. My form seems to be coming along pretty good, so I'm happy with that" said McConnell. He reflected on the race pattern, "My start wasn't so good, but in the middle part of the race I started riding better technically, I was able to get a good rhythm and build a good gap".

Graves would ultimately finish second, and retain the national series leader's jersey in the process, but it wasn't all smooth sailing.

"I had a really good crash at the start of lap 2 and cartwheeled over the bars, but I walked away from that thankfully," said Graves.

Despite the cross country success, his goals are in the enduro discipline internationally. "My training's been going good, I'm looking forward to getting as fit as I can for the Enduro World Series, that's what this (riding cross country) is all about for me".

Third place overall was taken by Cameron Ivory, who also secured the win in the under 23 category at the same time after some close racing with Michael Crosbie.

Elite women

In the elite women's race, Henderson was the clear favourite. Her 2013 was one of the best in history for an Australian female rider, and saw her win the World Cup Series for the under 23 women. Jenni King and Tory Thomas were always going to challenge, and the three girls rode together as a bunch for the first two laps.

On lap 3, Henderson decided to put the power down, and rode the fastest non-start lap of the day, 40 seconds faster than Thomas and King. She would ride confidently from here to ultimately win by 1:43.

"Today's the first race of the season back for me. I was pretty nervous coming in to this one," said Henderson.

She spoke of the key move. "The first two laps, I played the tactics well and lap 3 was when I put the hammer down. Sometimes out of sight is out of mind, I could settle into my own rhythm and go from there."

Adelaide round 1 winning King would eventually finish in second place after a tough battle with Thomas who finished third, and King also retained her Subaru season leader's jersey.

King said, "It was quite a tactical race, quite a bit of cat and mouse. I was gaining a lot on the descents, and Tory was climbing a bit better than me. I was surprised to pass her at the end. I'm stoked to retain the series leader's jersey."

Emily Parkes took the win in the under 23 category.

Juniors

For the second round of the season, the under 19 category was upgraded to have international ranking points.

Local Mansfield rider Mitchell Greenway set the early pace in the men's race to open up a lead of a minute from Reece Tucknott and Liam Jeffries. Greenway rode on to extend the lead throughout the race to take a dominant under 19 win.

Jeffries, riding in the under 19 category by choice is actually under 17 rider and made a move on the second to last lap up to second where he would finish, Tucknott rounded out the podium with third.

Greenway won by a massive margin of almost two minutes despite a crash, and said, "It's really good... pretty surprising to have won by such a gap and it's really good to get the international points and hopefully go overseas. I'm stoked with it."

In the under 19 women's race, Sara Mills initially lead over Ellie Wale. A series of crashes and passes ensued from both riders as the lead swapped, and Wale ended up taking the win.

Like Greenway, Wale was happy to win a race that helps her race internationally. "It's my goal to represent my country and do well in my sport, so I'm glad this race was a good one for me."

Downhill tomorrow

The weekend's action will conclude with downhill seeding and racing all day Sunday. In the elite men's downhill, the battle will be on between Troy Bronson and Connor Fearon, after Fearon took the spoils in Adelaide with his first win at the elite level.

In the elite women's downhill round one winner Danielle Beecroft will be back to try and continue her dominant start to the season.

Full Results

Elite and U23* men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Daniel McConnell1:37:52 
2Jared Graves0:01:11 
3Cameron Ivory*0:01:35 
4Michael Crosbie*0:02:14 
5Kyle Ward*0:02:59 
6Mark Tupalski0:03:16 
7Adrian Jackson0:03:47 
8Dylan Cooper0:04:03 
9Ben Forbes*0:04:33 
10Sam Chancellor0:05:39 
11Brendan Johnston0:06:40 
12Andrew Blair0:06:50 
13Travis Frisby0:07:15 
14Shaun Lewis0:08:15 
15Shaun Lewis0:08:52 
16Craig Cooke0:09:11 
17Russell Nankervis*0:10:03 
18Ben Bradley*0:10:16 
19Nicholas Morgan0:10:36 
20Scott Bowden*0:10:43 
21Lucas Sproson0:10:57 
22Matthew Molan0:11:34 
23Murray Spink0:11:56 
24Christopher Aitken*0:12:06 
25Michael England0:12:18 
26Steven Cusworth0:12:36 
27Tom Goddard*0:14:09 
-1lapWarrack Leach  
-2lapsSebastian Jayne*  
-2lapsEthan Kelly*  
-2lapsBrendan Adair*  
-3lapsSid Taberlay  
-3lapsJohn Groves  
-3lapsJason Lowndes*  
-3lapsLachlan Paton  
-3lapsAlexander Meyland*  
-3lapsDeclan Wharton*  
-4lapsGlen Sinnott  
-4lapsTristan Ward*  
DNFHayden Lebbink  
DNFJack Lamshed  
DNFJames Devonshire  
DNFJack Lavis*  
DNFChris Hamilton*  
Elite and U23* women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Rebecca Henderson1:38:39 
2Jenni King0:01:43 
3Tory Thomas0:01:56 
4Melissa Anset0:07:49 
5Karen Hill0:11:27 
6Sarah Riley0:12:00 
7Jenny Fay0:13:37 
8Eliza Kwan0:14:20 
9Emily Parkes*0:14:27 
10Rebecca Locke0:15:08 
-2lapsApril McDonough  
-2lapsJessica Douglas  
-2lapsKelly Bartlett  
-3lapsKatie Chancellor  
DNFNaomi Williams  
U19 men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Mitchell Greenway1:12:27 
2Liam Jeffries0:01:56 
3Reece Tucknott0:02:27 
4Jayden Ward0:02:54 
5Michael Potter0:03:07 
6Felix Smalley0:04:22 
7Callum Carson0:04:45 
8Luke Brame0:05:19 
9Simon Harrington0:05:53 
10Harrison Ernst0:06:58 
11Alex Lack0:07:27 
12David Bleakley0:08:20 
13Jonathon Dahl0:08:45 
14Jack Booth0:08:56 
15Cosi Hofman0:10:45 
16Foley Lachal0:10:59 
17Tom Green0:11:13 
18Ben Lack0:11:46 
19Jet Turner0:17:28 
DNFCallum Kidney  
DNFHarrison Ernst  
U19 women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Ellie Wale1:21:40 
2Sara Mills0:02:11 
DNFKarlee Gibson  
U17 men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Ben Walkerden0:45:10 
2Dylan Mckenna0:00:18 
3Kian Lerch-Mackinnon0:00:22 
4Isaac Buckell0:00:26 
5Oliver Armstrong0:01:11 
6Samuel McNaughton0:04:23 
7Josh Battye0:04:56 
8Jack Feltham0:05:22 
9Riley Morgan0:05:44 
10Adam Blazevic0:06:13 
11Ayden Venturin0:09:50 
12Jasper Albrecht0:10:37 
13Lex Bounds0:13:59 
-1lapJoel Kristensen  
U17 women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Mikayla Wolfe1:09:05 
2Ebony Tanzen0:01:47 
U15 men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Cameron Wright0:31:01 
2Jarrah Forrer0:00:45 
3Ben Metcalfe0:01:20 
4Charlie Brodie0:02:10 
5Jake Sedgman0:03:33 
6Joshua Tanzen0:05:26 
7Charlie Todd0:07:08 
8Tristan Miller0:09:14 
9Callum Inglis0:09:16 
10Alexander Matthews0:10:19 
11Samuel Buckell0:10:45 
12Oliver Beaumont0:11:10 
13Matthew Dinham0:20:03 
U15 women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Zoe Cuthbert0:41:04 
2Teagan Atherstone0:03:30 
3Amy Jackson0:09:16 
4Sally Potter0:11:45 
5Grace Upton Jones0:15:22 
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