Defending champs show liking for Dunedin course

Australia’s Cooper Jessen competes in the elite men’s cross-country race at the Oceania Mountain...
Australia’s Cooper Jessen competes in the elite men’s cross-country race at the Oceania Mountain Bike Championships at Signal Hill yesterday. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
The defending champions both won, but they did so in contrasting styles.

Christchurch’s Anton Cooper claimed a resounding victory in the elite men’s cross-country at the Oceania Mountain Bike Championships at Signal Hill yesterday.

The world No22 led from the first corner and powered away to finish in 1hr 23min 05sec.

That left him 42sec ahead of Australian Cameron Ivory.

Australia’s Rebecca McConnell had to haul in a large gap to take the elite women’s title.

She suffered a puncture at the top of the first hill which left her two minutes behind.

However, the world No4 dug deep to catch New Zealand’s Jessica Wilcox with a lap and a-half to go.

She finished in 1hr 26min 33sec, just over a minute ahead of Wilcox.

Both had been pleased with how they rode.

Cooper had not raced in four months and was surprised by how good he felt.

Alongside claiming the title, he also earned maximum points which would be important for Olympic qualification later in the year.

"Everything went perfect," he said.

"I led from the first corner, got away on the first climb and opened up a wee gap.

"I decided to keep the throttle on and open up a lead and then kind of keep them at arm’s length for the last half of the race."

He said the Signal Hill track was great and thought the setup with the car park was equally good.

While he knew there were sections of it that did not suit him, he found a way to make it work.

"I’ve learnt to adapt to that and play to my strengths.

"It’s one of those things with courses — you have to find out sections that work for you and sections that don’t.

"So I’m really happy with how I felt and how I rode and to get the win."

McConnell had similar praise for the track.

It was the second time she had raced on it, as she had been to the same event in Dunedin two years ago.

"I love it here. Dunedin’s amazing. It’s such a good place,’’ she said.

"We were here two years ago as well and the course is a true mountain bike course.

"It has a bit of everything. It’s got steep climbing, technical descending and then some fast sections as well."

That praise came despite her rough start to the race, after which she had to work hard right to the finish.

"I was just like ‘you have to be kidding’.

"I was pretty out of control on the descent, just trying to get to the bottom as quick as possible.

"It included a little climb and a little run.

"But I had good support out there and I told them to give me time gaps for the rest of the race.

"Every time the gap was coming down so I hoped it would be possible."

She had an eye on the Olympics as well, although was conscious of not putting all her energy into that one race.

McConnell flies home today, before leaving for Spain tomorrow.

The championships continue today with the downhill races from 10am until noon.


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