Comm Games: Cross-country duo content

By Kris Shannon in Glasgow

Karen Hanlen and Kute Fluker, left, embrace at the finish line of the mountain biking. Photo / Greg Bowker
Karen Hanlen and Kute Fluker, left, embrace at the finish line of the mountain biking. Photo / Greg Bowker

Neither managed to make the podium in the women's mountain biking but both Kiwis emerged happy from the event.

For Karen Hanlen, who finished sixth, her mere presence on the start line was satisfying after an injury-ravaged build-up, while Kate Fluker's eighth was a positive result for a late bloomer in the sport.

The Kiwi duo rode together for much of the middle stages of today's race at Cathkin Braes, just outside of Glasgow, before Hanlen pulled away and attempted to hunt down the front runners.

But the podium appeared locked up as early as the halfway mark of the six-lap race, with Canadian Catharine Pendrel putting on a masterclass to take gold while compatriot Emily Batty pipped Australian Rebecca Henderson for silver.

Hanlen eventually crossed four minutes back and, while she would have loved a spot in the top five, she was proud of her efforts.

"I'm pleased with that," the 34-year-old said. "It was a great race and a cool course, so I'm happy.

You always want to do better but I gave it my all today.

"I definitely was looking at a top five but I've had an interesting build-up and just to be representing New Zealand was a big thing for me today."

That interesting build-up involved what was a mysterious medical problem that saw her contemplate retirement. Plagued by leg pain that resulted in slow opening laps, Hanlen was initially diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma, only for the problem to resurface.

Bike NZ eventually discovered Hanlen suffered from a narrowing of the main artery in the leg, and successful surgery was carried out in May. The results were clear today, with Hanlen leading in the opening start loop, before the strength of the field shone through.

But the return remained a pleasing one for the London Olympian, who will now cast her eye towards September's mountain bike world championships in Norway.

"I've just recovered from major surgery so just to get here was my big goal," she said. "When you're stuck in a hospital bed and three weeks off a bike, you kind of get a bit of motivation. I just love it and I'll keep going as long as I can."

Her teammate also intends to stick around the sport for the foreseeable future, especially after taking up mountain biking only a few years ago. Fluker, with a background in horse riding, switched sports after moving to Queenstown in 2010, leaving the 26-year-old encouraged by her first major event.

"I'm fairly new and I have a lot of legs left to just keep going," she said. "It's a massive build up and the whole atmosphere of the Commonwealth Games is quite overwhelming,"
So overwhelming, in fact, that Fluker will take one main lesson into her next Games experience.

"Next time I'm turning my phone off the week out. It's not bad - it's been amazing - but if you get freaked out by pressure and the support then I think you're best to turn your phones off.

"You've got the whole of New Zealand behind you and I've had so many messages of support. It's been really cool but, at the same time, you just want to do really well for them and, I guess, I felt the pressure a wee bit."

- NZ Herald

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