Hanlen defends Oceania Mountain Bike title

London Olympians Karen Hanlen and Australian Dan McConnell were crowned Oceania cross-country mountain bike champions in Tasmania yesterday. (Sat)

Hanlen led strong performances from the New Zealand riders with Anton Cooper winning the under-23 men, Sam Gaze and Amber Johnson winning the under-17 honours while Eden Cruise took out the boys' the under-15 title.

In the elite women's race, Hanlen made up for a shaky start, racing from fifth position to first during the five lap race.

"I had a really slow start but I then managed to come back nice and strong on the third lap and kept coming back for the finish,'' Hanlen said. ``I was really rapt to get a win for an Oceania championship.''

The mother of two took out the race ahead of Australians Rowena Fry (TAS) and Jenni King (VIC).

Fry led the race from the gun with Hanlen hot on her heels, however after the first lap was completed, the New Zealander had slipped well down the field.

Hanlen spent the next two laps making up ground, catching Fry by the bell lap and consolidating her winning position to take a comfortable 45 second win.

"I have been having this happen in my national series and I know once I get through the second lap I kick in and seem to just get stronger and stronger,'' said Hanlen.

Wellington's Samara Sheppard finished fifth, eight minutes down on Hanlen in her first year in the elite ranks.

McConnell successfully defended his title in the elite men's category, beating challengers Sid Taberlay (AUS) and Luke Fetch (AUS) to the line.

World junior champion Cooper took out the under-23 title and played a strong role in the elite race, with both races starting together.

Tasmanian expat Taberlay led for the first two laps, riding in a lead group of five including under-23 riders Cooper, Australian Jack Haig and Kiwi Dirk Peters.

Taberlay dropped off the pack as Cooper raised the tempo, with the under-23 riders completing one less lap than the elite men.

McConnell however, held the wheel of the under-19 junior world champion until the Cannondale Racing rider pushed clear to claim the under-23 title from Haig and Peters.

That left McConnell to ride tempo to the finish line one lap later to claim the Oceania title, over two and a half minutes ahead of Taberlay.

Olympian Rebecca Henderson (AUS) claimed the under-23 women's honours, testing herself against the elite women, finishing a lap early with a sizeable lead on the entire field.

Under-19 New Zealand champions Johnson (Rotorua) and Gaze (Te Awamutu) added Oceania titles to their list with strong performances yesterday.

Johnson cleared out to win by 45 seconds with compatriot Samantha Hope third, while Gaze pushed clear on the final lap to win by 15 seconds with fellow Kiwi Ben Oliver third. Whitby's Cruise took out the under-15 honours, winning by more than four minutes in an eye-catching performance.

The action continues at Glenorchy today when the downhill Oceania Champions will be crowned.

Results, Men, elite: Daniel McConnell (AUS) 1:29.07, 1; Sid Taberlay (AUS) 1:31.47, 2; Luke Fetch (AUS) 1:32.56, 3. Also: Carl Jones (NZL) 1:36.25, 4.

Under-23: Anton Cooper (NZL) 1:13.33, 1; Jack Haig (AUS) 1:13.47, 2; Dirk Peters (NZL) 1:15.38, 3. Also other NZers: Brad Hudson 1:20.53, 6; Sam Shaw 1:21.53, 7; Josh Parkin 1:30.32, 13.

Under-19: Samuel Gaze (NZL) 1:00.54, 1; Ben Bradley (AUS) 1:01.10, 2; Ben Oliver (NZL) 1:01.35, 3. Also NZers: Brett Stokman 1:05.39, 7; Craig Oliver 1:08.24, 12.

Under-17: Liam Jeffries (AUS) 49:07, 1; Michael Potter (AUS) 49.56, 2; Callum Carson (AUS) 50:44, 4. Also: Nathan Johnston (NZL) 51.46, 5.

Under-15: Eden Cruise (NZL) 33.47, 1; Alex Young (AUS) 38.19, 2; Sam Fox (AUS) 38.27, 3.

Women, elite: Karen Hanlen (NZL) 1:309.34, 1; Rowena Fry (AUS) 1:31.18, 2; Tory Thomas (AUS) 1:31.20, 3. Also: Samara Sheppard (NZL) 1:38.56, 5.

Under-19: Amber Johnston (NZL) 55:33, 1; Harriet Beaver (AUS) 56:19, 2; Samantha Hope (NZL) 58:18, 3.

- APNZ

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