Daniel McConnell defied the oppressive conditions at Adelaide's Eagle MTB Park, blitzing the field to take out the elite men's cross country championship at the Australian MTB Championships. The Victorian finished 1:10 ahead of second placed Paul Van Der Ploeg in a time of 1:26:15 over six laps - reduced by one lap due to the severe conditions.
Making his move on an eventful second lap where the field split and leader Chris Jongewaard went backwards, McConnell created a gap of 9 seconds, a margin he significantly increased on a race-defining fourth lap.
This is McConnell's second national championship, the first being here in Adelaide in 2010. "It's better the second time around and it's an Olympic year, so it builds up a lot of confidence leading into the rest of the season," said McConnell post-race.
"It was very hard with the heat to know how early you can push it. We caught Chris at the start of the second lap, and I just lifted the pace a little bit and found myself with a 50 or 100 metre gap."
From there the 26-year-old focused on stability in the saddle. "I just tried to keep my head and ride smooth and the gap blew out - lap four I was just telling myself not to go too hard and do all the little things right like hydration and fuelling the body. Then the last couple of laps I was able to open it up and get a comfortable lead on the last time around."
Second place getter Paul Van Der Ploeg put in a strong effort in hisinaugural national championships ride in the elite class after back-to-back wins in the U23 category.
"It's always good to put together a strong national championships - it wasn't an easy race for sure. I didn't have that punch off the line that I usually have. I missed the pedal then hit the first wall of a climb, from there I maintained my position then worked my way up over the next laps and got into the top five by lap three."
The fight for bronze was a tight one with Real Insurance Australian MTB points leader Andrew Blair and Lachlan Norris putting in an exhilarating sprint finish that saw the former prevail by just 0.1 seconds.
And it was a battle between the two mates that included its share of friendly banter.
"The podium spot means a lot," said Blair. "I called it out to try and rattle Lachlan with just over a lap to go. He got in front of me and I said 'Norry, I'm coming for you!' We're mates so he would've had a chuckle I'm sure."
In an amazingly tight race, the under 23 category went down to the wire with Robbie Hucker victorious in a time of 1:12:43, just 7 seconds ahead of Jack Haig.
Trenton Day was third, after joining Hucker and Haig in a three-man breakaway that stayed together for four of the five laps, with just seconds separating them for much of the race.
"We took off and it's just how it panned out really, Jack, Trenton and I formed a good group," said Hucker.
"I didn't feel very good, the heat was getting to me. I took it easy on lap four and came good on lap five. I was on Jack's wheel on the last climb. It was really the last chance I had to get the jersey so I dug deep and got past him on the last climb and just held him off before the line."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|2||Paul Van Der Ploeg||0:01:10|
|8||Neil Van Der Ploeg||0:10:03|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
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