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McConnell wins first elite national title

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Andrew Blair punches it down the switchbacks like a mad man.

Andrew Blair punches it down the switchbacks like a mad man. (Image credit: Evan Jeffery / evanjeffery.blogspot.com)
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Adrian Jackson, with his rear shifter pod swinging from his bike, had a ride that was less than he'd hoped for.

Adrian Jackson, with his rear shifter pod swinging from his bike, had a ride that was less than he'd hoped for. (Image credit: Evan Jeffery / evanjeffery.blogspot.com)
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Paul Van Der Ploeg goes home with the Under 23 national title firmly in his possession.

Paul Van Der Ploeg goes home with the Under 23 national title firmly in his possession. (Image credit: Evan Jeffery / evanjeffery.blogspot.com)
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Josh Carlson had a stunning ride, finishing on the podium.

Josh Carlson had a stunning ride, finishing on the podium. (Image credit: Evan Jeffery / evanjeffery.blogspot.com)
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World 24-hour champion Jason English has a crack at a shorter distance.

World 24-hour champion Jason English has a crack at a shorter distance. (Image credit: Evan Jeffery / evanjeffery.blogspot.com)
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Aiden Lefmann put in a good ride finishing just outside the top five.

Aiden Lefmann put in a good ride finishing just outside the top five. (Image credit: Evan Jeffery / evanjeffery.blogspot.com)
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Lachlan Norris puts it into Sid Taberlay on one of the climbs at the back of the course.

Lachlan Norris puts it into Sid Taberlay on one of the climbs at the back of the course. (Image credit: Evan Jeffery / evanjeffery.blogspot.com)
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Cal Britten works hard to get back the positions he lost in the mass chaos just after the start.

Cal Britten works hard to get back the positions he lost in the mass chaos just after the start. (Image credit: Evan Jeffery / evanjeffery.blogspot.com)
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Daniel McConnell shows signs of a hard race when talking to Ben Henderson after the race.

Daniel McConnell shows signs of a hard race when talking to Ben Henderson after the race. (Image credit: Evan Jeffery / evanjeffery.blogspot.com)
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The trials course, held at the same venue as the cross country, consisted of a majority of natural elements found at Eagle Park.

The trials course, held at the same venue as the cross country, consisted of a majority of natural elements found at Eagle Park. (Image credit: Evan Jeffery / evanjeffery.blogspot.com)
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Trials riders put on a fine display at the MTB Nationals as cross country racers zipped around them.

Trials riders put on a fine display at the MTB Nationals as cross country racers zipped around them. (Image credit: Evan Jeffery / evanjeffery.blogspot.com)
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Daniel McConnell wins his first elite Australian national cross country title.

Daniel McConnell wins his first elite Australian national cross country title. (Image credit: Chameleon Photography / www.chameleonphotography.com.au)

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.

Full Results

Elite and Under 23 men (Under 23 indicated with *)
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Daniel McConnell1:58:40
2Lachlan Norris (Drapac Porsche)0:01:35
3Paul Van Der Ploeg* (Felt Bicycles, SRAM Components)0:02:49
4Joshua Carlson (Total Rush Factory Specialised)0:03:01
5Sid Taberlay0:04:03
6Aiden Lefmann (Cannondale,)0:04:33
7Jason English (Clarence St Cyclery, Shimano, Trek)0:04:35
8Dylan Cooper (TREK Concepts.com.au Fictive.com.au)0:04:36
9Shaun Lewis0:04:54
10Andrew Blair (Redshift Racing, KOM, SRAM, Jetblack, Maxxis)0:04:57
11Cal Britten*0:06:06
12Nick Both0:06:26
13Daniel Braunsteins0:06:54
14Perren Delacour (OnyaBike Belconnen & Civic )0:07:00
15Travis Frisby*0:08:37
16Neil Van Der Ploeg0:10:44
17Matthew Fleming (Clarence St Cyclery, Shimano, Trek)0:11:25
18Scott Liston (FELT, SRAM, Pinacle Cycles)0:12:47
19Merlin Spranz* (B.-d. Farm Paris Creek Bio-Mechanics)0:13:18
20James Williamson (Giant)0:14:59
21Matthew Potter0:15:16
22Brenton Jones* (Torq Australia)0:15:29
23Jeremy Ross0:16:01
24Glenn Stewart*0:16:53
25David Johnston*0:17:18
26David Johnston*0:17:46
27Jarrod Moroni0:18:28
28Steele Von Hoff0:19:10
29Matt Ligtermoet (Rush Racing Specialized Sram)0:19:18
30James Maebus0:21:15
-1lapPeter Kutschera
-1lapJames Peacock
-1lapMark Tupalski*
-1lapSean Hurley
-2lapsBen Henderson (Crowne Plaza Canberra,Onya Bike)
-2lapsJohn Groves (Apollo Bikes)
-2lapsGarry Millburn
-2lapsJulien Wicks
-4lapsAdrian Jackson
DNFJack Lamshed
DNFJames Kennedy
DNFSimon Fredericksen
DNFLuke Fetch*
DNFNicholas Morgan
DNSAaron Benson*
DNSNick Menager
DNSLewis Rattray*
DNSMark Flood*

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