Victoria’s Dan McConnell has become the first Australian male since Cadel Evans in 2000 to win a World Cup event, while Rebecca Henderson capped a sensational weekend for Australian mountain biking with victory in the under 23 women’s event at the UCI Cross Country (XC) World Cup #1 in Germany.The wins came hot off the heels of the major announcement by Cycling Australia and Mountain Bike Australia last Friday that Australia will host 2014 and 2016 World Cup events in Cairns, Queensland.
A powerful final lap surge by McConnell (Trek Factory Racing) was the difference as he claimed Sunday’s elite men’s race and the World Cup leader’s jersey in superb style.
“I did not expect this,” exclaimed McConnell, who finished 21st in the cross country event at the London 2012 Olympic Games. “I came into this looking for a solid top-15, so it’s unbelievable.”
McConnell, the reigning Oceania champion, had previously recorded only one top-20 World Cup result and it appeared this would be the case again when he commenced the seventh and final lap in sixth place, 29 seconds behind Mantecon. In a calculated final lap, McConnell steadily picked up places on the first long climb to move into second place, before taking the lead after the final descent and outsprinting Spain’s Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez on the home straight for the win.
“I could see Sergio in front of me, and at that stage I just gave it everything, and caught him through the grass section at the bottom of the descent,” McConnell explained. “I got into the last corner with a little bit of a gap and nothing was going to get past me at that point, I was running on adrenalin.”
In the under 23 women’s event, Canberra’s Rebecca Henderson claimed her maiden World Cup victory in a rain soaked event on Saturday. Henderson (Trek Factory Racing) was cautious early in the stages of the race and found herself in fourth place after the first of four laps. However the London Olympian powered to the front in the second lap and never relinquished the lead to finish 48 seconds clear of Jenny Rissveds (Sweden).
“I had a healthy lead, but I still felt pressure and rode as smart as I could,” said Henderson who like McConnell, now sits in the overall lead on the World Cup standings.
“This is an awesome result for Dan and Bec and on behalf of the MTBA Committee, congratulations to them,” said Russell Baker President, Mountain Bike Australia. “We thought it was going to be a good weekend for Australian Mountain Biking when we were able to announce two world cups for Cairns in 2014 and 2016, but how can you top these fantastic results.”
The second round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup will be held in the Czech Republic from May 24.