Anton Cooper and Rebecca McConnell claim Cross-country crowns at 2019 Oceania Mountain Bike Championships
New Zealand’s Anton Cooper claimed a fourth consecutive elite Oceania Cross-country title, while Rebecca McConnell (Australia) picked up her third at the 2019 Oceania Mountain Bike Championships in Bright, Victoria, Australia, April 10.
After a closely matched opening lap in the men’s race between three time defending champion Cooper and 2018 under 23 champion Ben Oliver (New Zealand), Cooper increased the pace as he took a 30 second advantage the second time across the line. Oliver was able to keep the margin within 50 seconds throughout the remainder of the race. The experience of the former under 23 world champion and Commonwealth Games medallist proved too much as Cooper powered home for a fourth crown. Cameron Ivory added an Australian flavour to the podium with bronze, just ahead of four time winner Daniel McConnell (Australia).
“It was good I am really happy. I felt quite good actually a lot better than at Nationals I had a bit of a cold there, was one of the hardest races I have ever done probably. This one just felt fresh from the start and the second lap I felt really good and just able to keep a consistent pace the whole race,” Cooper said of his fourth Oceania title.
“There is nothing like really hard on it but there is a lot of sections which could catch you out or you could puncture.
“It is where I want to be. I haven’t focused specifically on these races [Nationals and Oceanias] so far it has been racing where obviously I want to defend my titles and get the maximum points but the big goal is World Cups, which are five weeks away now.”
In the women’s McConnell hit out on the opening lap building a near minute lead the first time across the line in the five lap race. From here there was no catching the two time winner as she continued to put more time in to her rivals. Crossing the line nearly four minutes ahead of Holly Harris (Australia) who collected silver for the third year in a row. New Zealand’s Josie Wilcox completed the podium with defending champion Samara Sheppard (New Zealand) having to settle for fourth.
“It is pretty awesome,” an elated McConnell who last claimed the title three years ago in Queenstown, New Zealand.
“I think the biggest thing when you come to these races is you have to respect your competition and I have so much respect for the other girls that I am racing against, which I think is why I was able to bring my best performance today and obviously and opportunity to see how your form is and get a benchmark for upcoming races.”
The competition in the under 23 men’s field did not disappoint with nothing separating Australia’s Matthew Dinham, Cameron Wright, Sam Fox and Alex Lack over the opening three laps. Lap four saw newly crowned Australian Champion Dinham and former world champion Wright move clear of Fox and Lack with the pair going pedal stroke for pedal stroke until the final lap, where Dinham was able to edge clear to take the title by eight seconds. In the battle for bronze Fox was able to distance Lack in the closing stages.
“It was a really brutal race out there today, I definitely felt the fatigue from National Champs,” said Dinham.
“The other two boys really kept Cam and I pushing in this race. They kept attacking us too, so it was closing down gaps and trying to hold wheels.”
A sprint finish decided the under 23 women’s title with Sarah Tucknott (Australia) and dual under 19 champion Jessica Manchester (New Zealand) evenly matched across the four lap race. Coming in to the line Tucknott had the faster sprint to claim a maiden Oceania title.
“I am so happy I can’t even put it in to words,” Manchester said having claimed Australian Championships silver last week.
“Honestly just getting to race so closely with Jess, in previous years she has really been just miles ahead of us so just so stoked to have been able to race with her,” Tucknott added of her highlight of the day.
A strong start in the under 19 men’s race saw Corey Smith (Australia) take the early lead in the green and gold jersey of national champion. With the pace splitting the race behind a select group set off in pursuit of Smith hoping to bring down the advantage. Liam Johnston (Australia) remained within touching distance for much of the day including a fast final lap earning him silver just 11 seconds behind with Piper Albrecht (Australia) completing the podium.
“I am stoked with that one. Coming in to this I was feeling pretty tired from Nationals a few days ago and I knew I had to go out hard and from there I would see what I could do,” Smith said.
There was no stopping Australian Champion Zoe Cuthbert who went clear on the first of three laps and set her own tempo. A slow start by her Tasman rival and New Zealand Champion Samara Maxwell left her chasing for much of the racing. A regrouping on the final lap saw a sprint finish and the race go down to the wire with Cuthbert just having the edge. Ruby Ryan gave New Zealand two riders on the podium with bronze.
“Yes, I certainly did have to work for it today. I was getting very worried when Sam was coming up behind me on the last lap,” Cuthbert said.
2019 Oceania Mountain Bike Medallists
Elite Men Cross-country
1 Anton Cooper (New Zealand) 1:26.14
2 Ben Oliver (New Zealand) 1:27.02
3 Cameron Ivory (Australia) 1:27.40
Elite Women Cross-country
1 Rebecca McConnell (Australia) 1:43.28
2 Holly Harris (Australia) 1:47.16
3 Josie Wilcox (New Zealand) 1:48.00
Under 23 Men Cross-country
1 Matthew Dinham (Australia) 1:28.16
2 Cameron Wright (Australia) 1:28.25
3 Sam Fox (Australia) 1:29.43
Under 23 Women Cross-country
1 Sarah Tucknott (Australia) 1:28.27
2 Jessica Manchester (New Zealand) 1:28.28
Under 19 Men Cross-country
1 Corey Smith (Australia) 1:14.44
2 Liam Johnston (Australia) 1:14.55
3 Piper Albrecht (Australia) 1:15.10
Under 19 Women Cross-country
1 Zoe Cuthbert (Australia) 1:04.40
2 Samara Maxwell (New Zealand) 1:04.40
3 Ruby Ryan (New Zealand) 1:05.58