Mountain Bike Wrap: Broken wheel but not broken dreams

Published 22 August 2016 (AEDT)

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 21: Scott Bowden of Australia rides during the Men's Cross-Country on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Mountain Bike Centre on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. © 2016 Getty Images

MOUNTAIN BIKE: A broken wheel inside the opening minutes of the men’s cross-country final has felled Daniel McConnell’s dreams of an Olympic top ten finish.

Australia’s only triple Olympian in mountain biking, McConnell got off to a flying start on the first of seven laps of the 4.85km course which, after an overnight deluge, mirrored a giant mud slip and slide in some sections.

McConnell sat inside the top three of the 48-rider field after the opening loop. However as riders jostled for the all-important lead positions at the foot of the first climb, McConnell snapped half a dozen wheel spokes and was forced to make a front wheel change after hitting a fence.

It was a cruel blow for the Victorian who dropped as low as 39th after the first lap. But in true Aussie spirit, McConnell gritted his away around the climbs, descents, rock gardens, jumps, berms and bridges while overtaking riders on each and every lap.

Despite sitting in 28th at the halfway mark, McConnell continued to fight, climbing over 12 more riders on the final few laps to claim a gutsy 16th.

“Mixed emotions really,” said McConnell, 31, who continued his Olympic progression after finishing 39th at the 2008 Beijing Games and 21st four years later in London.

“I got a really good start, then just got put into the fence and had a broken wheel and was still on the start loop. From then on I just had to sort of change my race plan and just you know try and get the fastest time for the next seven laps and just you know keep chipping away.

“But everyone’s going super fast at the moment, so you lose five places at the start and you know that’s five places you will never get back. It’s sort of hard to move back through the field.”

For McConnell, it was a devastating blow just twenty-four hours after a back injury ended his fiancé Rebecca Henderson’s dreams after four laps in the women’s race.

“It’s pretty disappointing I really wanted to pull a good day off today, after Bec, yeah,” said McConnell. “I’m happy how the legs were but the result’s not where the form is this time.

“But I’ll just take every year as it comes. I think while I’m still enjoying it I still think I’ve got room for improvement.”

It was a gallant effort while on debut from Tasmania’s Scott Bowden, 21, who finished 36th, one lap down on the leaders.

“Absolutely madness out there, all week at practice it had been dry but it was actually pretty slippery out there, that just made it even more exciting,” said Bowden, who formed part of Australia’s four-men road team on the opening day of the Games.

“I’ve been in Rio for a while now after doing the road race so I was itching to get out there and get into it. I’m pretty happy with that I guess, couldn’t do much more than that,” said Bowden, who like McConnell had his pre race plans thrown into disarray after falling in the early stages of the race.

“I think it was on the first lap I went offline and didn’t have the best start, swamped a few riders and made up quite a few spots on a the turns.

“But not many people out there would have had a clean race I don’t think, it was super tough but also an amazing experience.

“Four years ago I was staying up late watching the London race on TV, four years ago I guess I was 17, four years ago I didn’t think I would be here at the Olympics at 21 to have already done that makes me more hungry to come back for more and use that experience for sure.”

Reigning world champion and London 2012 Olympic Games silver medallist Nino Schurter (SUI) took gold ahead of reigning Olympic gold medallist Jaroslav Kulhavy (CZE) and Carlos Nicloas Coloma (ESP).

Amy McCann


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