The action took place over a challenging five kilometre loop, with riders battling for supremacy in the second last round of the series, which is presented by Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA).
Dual Olympian, national champion and male series leader, Dan McConnell (Trek Factory Racing), was absent while racing the Pioneer MTB stage race in New Zealand, which he led from the first stage with U23 XC world champion, Anton Cooper (Cannondale Factory Racing).
McConnell’s dominance in the XC series meant the race in Thredbo was wide open for the Elite Men. The race started steadily, but was quickly broken open on the second of eight laps, when a trio comprised of Ivory, Scott Bowden (Focus-4Shaw) and Brendan Johnston (Target Trek) surged at the front.
The group worked together during lap three to increase their lead over Kyle Ward (Stelf Cycling) and the rest of the field, building a gap that would never be bridged.
“I took the lead on the second lap and led until the last lap, when Scott got past me,” said Ivory. “Then he attacked me a few times and I was able to just hold his wheel.”
With the group of mates staying together for the duration of the race, it looked like the Thredbo crowd would witness a classic sprint finish, and the riders did not disappoint.
“Coming into the finish I knew I had quite a good kick,” said Ivory. “I was kind of confident that I could come past him (Bowden), but then he opened up a small gap into the finish and that scared me, but I think I got him by just under a bike length in the end.”
Timing data showed that Ivory secured the win by an incredibly narrow 0.12 seconds.
Ivory was confident post-race when discussing his biggest goal for the year: “To qualify for the Olympics, that’s what I’m focusing my season around."
Bowden was gracious in second place. “I gave it everything on the last lap and tried to get a gap, and it came down to the last couple of metres,” he said. “Hats off to Cam, he rode super strong today and just got over me on the line.”
Johnston, who had been in the lead group all race, rounded out the podium with a well-earned bronze medal. McConnell retains the series lead heading into the final round next month in Toowoomba, Queensland.
Henderson holds her edge over the women’s field
In the Elite Women’s race, Olympian Henderson was the form rider coming into the round, having recorded wins in both races of the double-header just two weeks prior in Pemberton, Western Australia.
After finishing the first lap in third place, in a tight bunch with Samara Sheppard (Specialized New Zealand) and Peta Mullens (Moroni’s Bikes), Henderson was able to make a solo move during lap two.
“I got a bit of a lucky break. I was first, Samara second and Peta third, and then Samara dropped Mullens' wheel and I took advantage of that, with this giving me a little gap over Peta,” said Henderson. She continued to build her lead through the middle of the race.
“I knew I had to get away with a good amount to spare. With seven laps it was always going to be a hard last section of the race. I just tried to get a sustainable gap and then I would hopefully be able to hang on,” said Henderson.
She eventually won by 30 seconds, making it three wins from three races for the reigning national champion.
Mullens came into summer as the defending national road champion. She has spent most of the summer racing on the tarmac. She has only competed once in the Subaru National Mountain Bike series, where she earned a silver at Stromlo.
“Today wasn’t just ‘back to the series’ to me, it was back on a mountain bike,” said Mullens. “I was pretty surprised and happy to finish just 30 seconds behind Bec.”
Mullens rode a consistent race to second place, Sheppard took third, and Jenni King (Canyon Bikes) finished fourth and maintained her lead in the series.
@bechenderson27: Today I chose to race my Trek Procaliber - it was perfect for the Thredbo trails and took me to a win! Happy with the early season results #trekbikes #procaliber @mtbaust Photo by Jack Hendo
Turning to junior racing, in the Under 19 Men’s race, Cameron Wright once again “rode up” from the Under 17s and recorded another remarkable win, with Nick Pedler and Michael Harris rounding out the podium.
Katherine Hosking was exceptionally strong in the Under 19 Women’s race, winning from Sarah I’ons with Ruby Wilson in third.
Racing continues today with the high fuelled downhill and short course cross-country disciplines both taking place in Thredbo. Spectators are welcome free of charge.