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King, McConnell provide domestic season higlights

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Jenni King races in Tasmania

Jenni King races in Tasmania (Image credit: Russ Baker)
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Dan McConnell topped the podium at the Tasmanian round of the Australian National Series

Dan McConnell topped the podium at the Tasmanian round of the Australian National Series (Image credit: Russ Baker)
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Dan McConnell after winning the Australian cross country national title.

Dan McConnell after winning the Australian cross country national title. (Image credit: Russ Baker)
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Dan McConnell was aggressive from the start of the Australian national mountain bike championships.

Dan McConnell was aggressive from the start of the Australian national mountain bike championships. (Image credit: Russ Baker)
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Dan McConnell took his first elite national cross country title.

Dan McConnell took his first elite national cross country title. (Image credit: Russ Baker)
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Jo Wall races at the Australian National Championships in Adelaide

Jo Wall races at the Australian National Championships in Adelaide (Image credit: Russ Baker)
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The elite women's Australian National Championship podium in Adelaide

The elite women's Australian National Championship podium in Adelaide (Image credit: Russ Baker)
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Dan McConnell and Luke Steele race the short track in Tasmania

Dan McConnell and Luke Steele race the short track in Tasmania (Image credit: Russ Baker)

So the Australian domestic season has begun. As the Torq Nutrition Team becomes more international with our race program, the gap from travelling and racing in Europe or North America to racing the domestic National Series becomes tighter. We are three races into our national series already, and we have also already had our national championships.

Reflecting on the first race of the series in beautiful Hobart, Tasmania, our southern-most capital city, it had been only eight weeks since the last World Cup, with some important enduro-style events in between.

A revitalised team gathered in Hobart with no-one sure of either of the form or their fellow competitors. It was a race of watching and seeing for many. The course presented as very dry and somewhat rutted as we are in the midst of the longest drought. It was a deceivingly fast and taxing course.

Jenny King, our newest team member, made a great debut, claiming third in women's race. In the men's race, Luke Fetch continued his growth as an elite athlete as he snared second Under 23 in an energy-sapping race while our Oceania champion Dan McConnell took the chocolates in an outstanding performance among the elite men. This was a particular satisfying result for Dan as he's always tended to fly underneath the radar here in Australia while concentrating more on the Europe season. Finally, he is getting the recognition that he deserves.

National Championships

Adelaide, South Australia, hosted the Australian National Championships for the first time. The enthusiastic local clubs have been given great support from the South Australian government and were able to secure the rights to hold the next three championships.

There was a great vibe around town as the meeting was held in conjunction with the start of the Tour Down Under and Adelaide was quite the cycling Mecca for two weeks. With the pro road teams already in town training under beautiful sunshine while escaping the European blizzards, you weren't out on the roads too long before you encountered one or another pro team with full entourage.

Our team decided to stay just out of Adelaide itself and instead lodged in the touristy German-themed town of Hahndorf. The village-like atmosphere proved to be an ideal way to prepare for a major race with every required facility at the doorstep, which enabled great rest and recovery leading up to the race.

In all races, there are little races within the main race. This was particularly so for our women with Jenny King and Jo Wall having their own battle together. It evolved to be the race for bronze with several position changes between themselves dragging each other along helping them to stay away from any opportunists.

The men's race was an example how tricky the Adelaide course is. While its does not have super steep climbs, there is still plenty of climbing required, switchbacks, rocks, lots of rocks, and tight singletrack. It's definitely a track with teeth and a cruel bite. But in these conditions, a great victory can emerge and Dan once again had a stormer. After leading from the gun and an early battle with three-time national cross country champion Sid Taberlay, the elastic eventually broke. Dan rode away from the field, stamping his authority on the race and taking his first national title thanks to his style of controlled aggression.

A new horizon dawns with the death of the national program

Mention needs to be made about some sudden changes to our domestic scene. An announcement from Cycling Australia told us that mountain biking now no longer receives any funding for its high performance program.

This decision resonates through all state sport institutes, which have in turn pulled back their support. Several of our team members have been recipients of assistance through these programs, which gave quite tangible benefits to these riders and their growth as athletes. In fact, looking at the podium of the men's elite race at nationals, all three are ex-members of the national team previously funded through Cycling Australia.

The upshot of this is that all Australian riders, whether competing locally or internationally, are doing so by being privately funded. It's a very tough ask here in Oz.

This has created greater emphasis of our appreciation of the passion and commitment from Gen and Dean of Torq Nutrition and our equipment suppliers including GT Bicycles, SRAM components, Continental Tyres, Rudy Project and Light and Motion. This is not intended to be advertorial, but to highlight that without the passion of these people, a UCI team like Torq Nutrition would not exist and big holes would begin to emerge in nurturing great mountain bike talent here in Australia.

Thanks for reading and happy riding.
Ray Lacis

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The only UCI-registered mountain bike team in Australia, the TORQ Performance Nutrition team features some of Australia's top racers and future stars, including current national and Oceania Champion Dan McConnell

For 2011-2012, TORQ racers are targeting the Australian Mountain Bike National Series, National Championships and Oceania Continental Championships. The team's top priority is racing Olympic distance cross country events, but it is also mixing things up with some short track, marathon and endurance events - and maybe even some road races.

Some members will head abroad for the World Cups - an important part of Australian national team selection process for the 2011 World Championships. In the past two years, the team has grown to include some new faces with some great results to back them up.

McConnell, who represented Australia at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, is perhaps the team's most well-known member. Mark Fenner, Brenton Jones, Mark Tupalski, Luke Fetch, Robbie Hucker, Jenni King, Katherine O'Shea, Joanna Wall and Becky Mates are also on the roster. Members take turns writing diary entries.