Eliminator expert Paul van der Ploeg carved up the final day of the Subaru Mountain Bike National Championships in Stromlo Forest Park, Canberra to take out the event's inaugural eliminator title.
Van der Ploeg progressed through to the final in straight heats and edged out Troy Herfoss (NSW) in a tightly fought final over the 700-metre course with Dan McConnell (Trek Factory) finishing in third.
After taking out the Cross-Country (XCO) title yesterday, Chris Jongewaard (SA) suffered an early technical problem in the final, leaving only Daniel McConnell (VIC), van der Ploeg and Herfoss to battle it out in difficult weather conditions.
“It was pretty slick with the rain,” van der Ploeg noted. “The course rode completely differently than during the first few heats and just as it was drying up the skies opened. It was just incredible.”
Van der Ploeg had to endure some pain for his title after being passed by Herfoss in the final straight when the Victorian faulted, only to have Van der Ploeg prevail in the final few pedal strokes.
“I pulled my foot in the last sprint, I’ve actually got blood coming out of my knee because I hit it against the shifter. I didn’t think I’d be able to get back in and put down the power for the last sprint, but I was lucky.”
A national champion in Superbikes, Troy Herfoss had to use all his pedal power to claim silver.
“I think in these conditions race craft comes into it,” Herfoss explained. “I had to be very patient there at the start, but I think Dan (McConnell) blew his jets on the way out trying to pass and I was able to capitalise on the way out of the technical section.”
In the women’s race, Katherine O'Shea also progressed through to the final unscathed before holding off a fast finishing Rowena Fry (Avanti), second, and Lindsay Gorrell, third.
“That was a tough race, it was really good competition, so it makes for an exciting year ahead,” said O’Shea after her thrilling win.
“I could hear her (Rowena Fry) on my wheel, so I knew I had to take that corner and really power out of it onto the strait,” O’Shea described.
Fry enjoyed the fast paced race and the battle to the line.
“It was pretty nuts out there,” Fry exclaimed. “I nearly had a tangle with Lindsay (Gorrell) on the top corner and thought my race was nearly over.
“Then I managed to get on Kath (O'Shea)’s wheel, it was so hard to pass, and I went for a big wind up on the outside. I was really looking forward to a nice close sprint finish, but just pulled my foot at the end and Kath was gone by that point – it was good fun though.
“It’s a really exciting format, there’s always lots of carnage, and the mud is throwing another element in there.”
Third-placed Gorrell did well to podium after a mechanical, the New South Wales rider travelling to the Australian Championships only for the debut format.
“I actually dropped my chain over before the first berm,” Gorrell lamented. “It’s racing, you take the good with the bad.”