• Rebecca Henderson in action at the XCM national championships. (Dave Acree)Source: Dave Acree
Brendan Johnston (ACT) and Rebecca Henderson (ACT) claimed the 2017 XCM National Championships titles in Townsville, North Queensland on Sunday.
Cycling Central

1 May 2017 - 10:32 AM 

The elite men’s crown would be Johnston’s third straight in a time of 4hr11min 14sec, beating home Daniel McConnell (ACT) and Ryan Standish (VIC) who picked up silver and bronze.

“That was super tough, toughest one I’ve done I think,” Johnston said. “I didn’t know if it was possible today up against Dan he’s a super talent and it was a hard way to do it.”

For Henderson, it was a piece of history, as she became the first elite woman to hold the national XCM and XCO title in the same year.

The two-time Olympian finished the 76km in 3hr 59min 24sec more than 13minutes ahead of Holly Harris (NSW) and Emma Viotto (ACT).

“It was good to be able to fit this in and we usually don’t get to the marathon championships,” Henderson said before heading to Europe for the start of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup season.

“It’s not ideal to do a four-hour marathon race, push yourself to the limit and then get on the plane the next day.”

Henderson put two minutes into the field on the first lap and continued to extend it on a course that drained the energy from her chasers as she rode solo for nearly four hours.

“That was super tough. While the view was beautiful the course was a real struggle,” Harris said as she and Viotto battled for the minor placings.

Under 23 Oceania and Australian titleholder Megan Williams rode hard to claim fourth.

In the men’s race, there were plenty of lead changes during the 96km race around the Cape Pallarenda course.

Andy Blair (ACT), who has recently returned from injury and would eventually finish fifth, along with Tasman Nankervis (VIC) would try and up the ante early in the men’s field, before Johnston and McConnell, who fought back from a flat tyre mid-race, took control.

It would take until the 78km mark that the defending titleholder could break free from McConnell and secure a third marathon gold medal.

“I tried earlier on the last lap and he was just glued to my wheel and I doubted myself a bit and thought it might come to a sprint because I couldn’t’ shake him,” Johnston said.

That left Standish to claim the bronze, and show he is a rider on the rise having finished second in two of the national series marathon rounds so far this year.

Over 100 age groupers competed on Saturday from 24km to the half marathon distance.