After the third C1 ranked round of the Subaru MTBA National Series in Pemberton yesterday, racers backed up for the C2 ranked round four today, on a different course at Pemberton Mountain Bike Park in South Western Australia. But McConnell and Henderson still fought to the top step.
Henderson shoots late
In last year’s double header in Pemberton, Henderson didn’t quite have the punch to back up on Sunday after winning the race on Saturday, and Peta Mullens rode to a decisive victory with a huge margin. But today, a gut busting ride by Henderson handed her a second win in the Elite Women XCO – also her second race of the season.
While apparently struggling with the pace early on, and back down the rankings – on the fourth lap the Olympian broke the hearts of Samara Sheppard and Jenni King who rounded out the minor placings, as she dropped a minute on her previous lap time to ride out the final lap around 4.5km course alone and record a 1:31:33 second victory.
“I had to work extremely hard for that one it was as much a test of my character as much as my legs,” the 24 year old remarked.
“My legs were horrible on the early couple of laps, I tried to lead and I wasn’t foxing or bluffing that’s all I had. It definitely tested how much I love riding my bike,” Henderson said.
In a duel out front was current series leader King and New Zealand’s Sheppard, who resumed their battle from Round 3, as they put a 34 second gap into the Elite Women’s field.
But whatever race plan the 2014 Commonwealth Games Bronze medallist was concocting it worked, the deficit was reduced to only 8 seconds.
“I caught them in a singletrack and and I just knew I had to attack at my first opportunity cause I was travelling a lot quicker and had to keep the momentum,” said the Trek rider.
On the fourth lap, Henderson, who is bidding to contest a second Olympics Cross Country at Rio in August, passed her weekend rivals with plenty of steam left in the tank.
“It’s a good show my form is definitely building to have that race speed especially in the later half of the race is a good sign.”
Sheppard found she was able to come away from the races not just with two podium places – but some new skills in the bag.
“I never practice the wall cause we don’t have wall rides in Wellington, and I didn’t think how beneficial it would be so I went into it full gas and snake down the middle but it wasn’t very efficient,” the second place getter said.
“Bec wound up another gear and I tried to hold on for two seconds.”
With her two gold medal wins from the weekend, Henderson has crept up to be second behind King who retains the series leaders ranking heading into Round 5 at Thredbo in a fortnight.
McConnell uses the one gas – full gas
Today, McConnell affirmed he is the best cross country racer in Australia. McConnell drove the rest of the field into oblivion on the red dirt, as he showed no signs of fatigue backing up 24 hours after winning Saturday’s event.
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Posted by MarathonMTB.com on Saturday, 23 January 2016
“Yesterday I came in a little bit fresh sort of took me a little bit to find my legs, but today they were on song,” he said. “It’s always hard backing up after the first lap I felt fairly comfortable.”
The 30 year old completed the seven lap race in 1:47:12, to win his fourth straight Elite Mens race.
“I sort of worked my way into it and half way into it felt really good.”
It was a bunched group two laps in to the second race of the weekend, with all the main players at the head.
But when lap three rolled around, the two time Olympian McConnell put the foot down to drop the pack.
McConnell produced the fastest lap of the day with a 14m27seconds which put a 56 second gap into in-form Cam Ivory who had settled into second in front of Bowden, who has spent plenty of time in the saddle recently.
“Really wasn’t sure how I’d back up today.” said Bowden. “That’s the sixth race in nine days on the mountain bike and definitely a bit of fatigue in the legs but couldn’t have asked for a better race than that today,” Bowden finished 1min13sec behind McConnell.
With, the current series rankings leader well out front, it was left to the risings stars of the sport to battle it out for the minor placings.
“I could see Cam ahead and once I caught him there wasn’t just respite he started going full gas and we really had a good battle then,” Bowden said.
That would only last until midway through the fifth lap before, last year’s national series winner in Bowden found another gear to move away and claim silver.
There’ll be no rest for McConnell ahead of Round 5 at Thredbo in two weeks time, he’s off across the ditch to contest the “7 Day Epic” Pioneer MTB Stage Race with New Zealand rival Anton Cooper.
“It should be pretty good training, cause we don’t get to have back to back races very often. Hopefully me and Anton can have a really good race next week and set our season up.”