Paul van der Ploeg (Giant) and Rebecca Henderson (Trek Factory Racing) took early leads in round three of the Subaru All Mountain Cup in Bright, the final event in the Australian National Mountain Bike Series.
The pair claimed victories in the cross country eliminator held on the banks of the Alpine Ovens River in what van der Ploeg described as "one of the most exciting finals I've ever raced".
Van der Ploeg beat under 23 riders Cameron Ivory and Ben Forbes to the line in what was a thrilling final.
The eliminator national champion progressed to the final undefeated after knocking out two time Olympian Dan McConnell (Trek Factory) and Nick Both (TORQ) in the quarter final and eliminating series leader Chris Jongewaard (JetBlack/ Lightview) in the semi final.
The Victorian jumped well from the gun and lead the field by the halfway point before Luke Fetch (Target Trek) made the pass on a difficult stair section.
Fetch held the lead only momentarily before losing his balance and allowing van der Ploeg to regain his lead.
"Because of the course Luke was able to get a bit of a slingshot off my wheel," van der Ploeg said. "He came past me and then he almost crashed so I came around him, his chain dropped and all four of us were together and it was a sprint to finish, luckily I had enough in the end."
Having missed the first round due to shoulder surgery, van der Ploeg looks unlikely to challenge Jongewaard for the series title however his somewhat home-town win was something special.
"My aim was to just have fun and enjoy the awesome trails out here in Bright. It's really close to my home and I had a lot of friends and family out here cheering me and it's always special to have that," the Mount Beauty local said.
In the women's race, Henderson showed she could continue to back up after only arriving in Australia on Thursday following her victory in the first event of the USA Pro XCT national series.
The 21-year-old claimed a decisive eliminator victory ahead of under 19 rider Em Parkes (TORQ) and Jenni King (Target Trek).
"The race today was super exciting and it was great to be a part of," Henderson said. "All the races were down to the wire so it was excellent."
Henderson progressed through to the women's final unscathed but was out-muscled off the start line, rounding the first corner in third position.
"I took a few little risks to make some passing manoeuvres and I felt quite strong. Em was right on my wheel until the finish line so I think I made the right pass at the right time," Henderson explained.
With series leader Peta Mullens (Target Trek) absent for the final round of the All Mountain Cup, Henderson needs only to claim victory overall in Bright to leap frog Mullens for the title.
"I'll try and hold off the jet lag but my legs feel good considering the circumstances," Henderson said.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team|
|1||Paul van der Ploeg|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team|
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