This weekend, the Subaru MTBA National Series has reconvened in Pemberton, in south Western Australia, for a double header of XCO racing action. The trails of Pemberton were regarded by many as the best in the series last year, and at the C1 ranked race today, Dan McConnell and Bec Henderson have shown they are firing for their 2016 campaigns.
Fast start for Henderson
The Australian champion completed the five lap race in 1:44:18, ahead of New Zealand’s Samara Sheppard and current series leader Jenni King in third.
“Definitely great to get a win which was back to racing my style which I like to go pretty hard pretty early and find my place from there,” said Henderson who’s ranked 20 in the world.
Henderson who finished third in the last round at Mt Stromlo in December behind King, held the rest of the field captive around the 4.8km course.
“It’s a tough one there’s really not a lot of passing and I did try and use that to my advantage. It was very mentally draining and I had to be concentrating the whole time”
“I’ve been doing a lot of volume in my training at the moment and not so much speed work,” said Canberra based rider.
While the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist was untroubled up front, King was embroiled in a struggle against the Kiwi for the minor placings.
King, who had won the opening two rounds in the Elite Women, admitted Saturday’s race was a struggle.
“The girls really put on a hot pace and it takes me a little while to warm up which hurt me a bit,” said King.
It would tell on the final lap, as Sheppard made her move and claimed her first podium finish of the series. Karen Hill, who is also trained by King, was 4th, with 2014 24hr Solo World Champion Kim Hurst in 5th – another New Zealand based rider who braved the travel to race in a C1 event.
There was plenty more up for grabs than a podium place, with international ranking points up for grabs in the UCI Category 1 event.
“My ride I couldn’t fault it. As for my form I’m still building and don’t plan to peak until March, April and of course August,” said Henderson who is vying for her second Olympic Games spot in Rio later this year.
McConnell in charge
Dan McConnell has retained an unblemished record in the 2015-2016 Subaru National MTB Series with a dominant Round 3 victory at Pemberton, Western Australia on Saturday.
The dual Olympian ensured he would make it three straight wins coming home in a time of 1:43:00 ahead of Cam Ivory and Scott Bowden who filled out the minor placings.
“I’ve done a fair bit of training since the last national round and the legs weren’t quite race fit at the start but I’m really happy with how the race went today,” McConnell said, who wasn’t leading from the gun as he often does in domestic races.
It was Ivory, who coincidently won Round 3 here last year, that got out of the blocks fastest with the current series leader in McConnell sitting comfortably back in fifth after lap one.
“I just wanted to try something different this weekend and try and be a lot more aggressive and lead out if possible.” said Ivory, “When Dan came past me I just couldn’t hold him he’s just so strong,” said Ivory.
It would only take until the second lap for McConnell to lead the pack around the Pemberton course and ensure maximum UCI Category 1 points, as he rode un-rivalled to a convincing race victory.
“It’s pretty important for Australia to get some points and hopefully we can qualify two spots in the men for the Olympics.”
Bowden, who also had tasted victory on the course, proved he would be one to watch in coming rounds as on the final lap he moved up from fifth to his first podium place of the series.
“At the start I kind of wanted to go hard and I thought I was but the other guys were on fire and it took me each lap to come a bit stronger.”
Bowden recently won the Wildside MTB Stage Race, and may well ride into some fast legs tomorrow, when all the riders back up with round 4 of the Subaru MTBA National Series.