Olympians Dan McConnell and Bec Henderson brought their international form to Mt Buller, with both taking wins in the eliminator racing on Friday afternoon.
The eliminator format started with seeding runs, with all riders completing a timed lap of the 700m course. The challenging loop took riders around the Mt Buller Village and included a technical climb, a complex descent down stairs and a fast finish loop on road.
In the elite men's field, Jack Lamshed and Chris Aitken seeded equally fast (1.34) with McConnell just a second behind. For the elite women, Em Parkes seeded well clear of the field (1:48) with Henderson in second (1:54) and Phillipa Rostan in third (1:55).
The women's final featured some of the closest racing of the day. Parkes, for the second time this season, had the fastest start in the final, and powered into a dominant ride that left it for the field to chase her down. As riders returned to the final road corner, she still had a significant lead.
Henderson, the under 23 UCI Cross Country World Cup Series winner, showed her experience and power, chasing down the younger Parkes to win in the closest of sprint finishes to thrill the crowd, with Fay in third.
"My legs finally started to warm up on the last road section and we had a pretty hard sprint to the finish," said Henderson. "It's definitely a great start to the year."
The elite men's final featured McConnell, Lamshed, Andy Blair and Jack Lavis. All riders started quickly with the field bunched tight from the line.
Lamshed and Lavis were caught up in a crash, and this allowed McConnell and Blair to have the race to themselves. McConnell powered away to the win, Blair took second and Lamshed remounted to take third.
McConnell, who won a round of the UCI cross country World Cup last year, said. "It's a bit unexpected, but training's been going pretty well, and it's good to start off the year with a win in the eliminator".
Racing continues at the stunning Mt Buller venues throughout the weekend. Saturday features the Olympic cross country races and Sunday will showcase downhill action all day on the Mt Buller course.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team|
|1||Daniel McConnell (Aus)|
|2||Andrew Blair (Aus)|
|3||Jack Lamshed (Aus)|
|4||Jack Lavis (Aus)|
|5||Felix Smalley (Aus)|
|6||Sebastian Jayne (Aus)|
|7||Luke Brame (Aus)|
|8||Shaun Lewis (Aus)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team|
|1||Rebecca Henderson (Aus)|
|2||Emily Parkes (Aus)|
|3||Jenny Fay (Irl)|
|4||Philippa Rostan (Aus)|
|5||Brodie Chapman (Aus)|
|6||Zoe Cuthbert (Aus)|
|7||Sara Mills (Aus)|
|8||Sally Potter (Aus)|
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