In a fairytale finale to the season, husband and wife downhill duo Chris Kovarik and Claire Buchar have reigned supreme at the final round of the 2009/10 Jayco Australian MTB Series in Canberra today.
Earlier in the day, Paul Van der Ploeg and Rowena Fry prevailed in the short track.
After three rounds of thrilling action, the 2009/10 Jayco Australian MTB Series came to its crescendo this weekend at Stromlo Forest Park, the home of the 2009 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.
The men’s elite downhill had been an enthralling contest all season and today was no exception.
With five riders left to come down, Hobart and Thredbo winner Ben Cory was in the hot seat with a swift 2:37.12 ride on his home track.
Shaun O’Connor (NSW) came agonisingly close with a 2:37.16 but it was the final rider and national champion Chris Kovarik who blew them all away.
The 32-year-old Queenslander tore down the course, crossing the line in 2:34.84, to secure his second win of the series.
“I’m pretty happy with that run, I made no mistakes really,” said Kovarik.
“I’m heading overseas shortly and the win today is great for my confidence.
“The times are always close on this track. It’s no surprise today that we were all so close. These local guys are keeping us on our toes.”
Young gun Troy Brosnan (SA) won the under 19 male section in 2:44.87, pipping series title winner Ayden Wyber (2:46.33) and Antony Moore (2:48.43).
Demonstrating her wealth of experience, Canadian Claire Buchar easily accounted for her rivals in the women’s downhill.
The Canadian national champion flew down the course, nailing the triple treat and rock garden, to stop the clock in 3:08.12 and collect her third gold medal of the series.
The next fastest was local speedster Claire Whiteman (3:18.70), followed by fellow Canadian Leigh Douglas (3:20.60)
An exhausted Buchar was in a world of pain when she crossed the line.
“That was just one giant sprint,” said Buchar. “It was a really tough course, nothing could prepare you for all that sprinting, no matter how hard you train.”
Along with her husband Chris Kovarik, Buchar heads over to race in California in three weeks time before attacking the World Cup season.
Holly Baarspul took out the under 19 female category in 3:28.00.
Men’s Short Track
In the men’s short track earlier in the day, the field set off at a cracking pace with Dan McConnell (VIC), Ben Henderson (ACT) and Paul Van der Ploeg (VIC) leading the charge.
McConnell dropped off, and the battle between Henderson and Van der Ploeg began.
The lead changed hands on a number of occasions, before Van der Ploeg got out of his saddle with three laps to go, setting a frenetic pace, with Henderson in hot pursuit.
Henderson once again got in front with just one lap to go, but the powerful legs of Van der Ploeg were just too strong in the sprint to the finish, the 21-year-old holding on to clinch a thrilling victory.
“I’m stocked with that win,” said Van der Ploeg. “It was a really fun track today, with the jumps and berms and all the add-ons that make it a bit more exciting.
“Ben was really good today. It’s a bit more exciting when you’re out there with someone else.
“There was only one straight with a good passing opportunity. Ben snuck up on the climb in the very back section, and I thought I’d lost it, so I gave it everything I had on the last lap.”
Today’s win elevated Van der Ploeg to the top of the final series standings, to share the title with Dan McConnell.
Van der Ploeg now heads over to Germany to join his Felt teammates, before launching his World Cup campaign in April.
Women’s Short Track
Unlike the majority of the season, today’s women’s short track race was extremely tight. Rowena Fry (TAS) dictated the pace for the first ten minutes, with Rebecca Henderson (ACT) and Katherine O’Shea (VIC) right on her tail.
However with three laps to go, Fry hit the gas, and opened up a commanding lead which eventually led her to secure her third short track victory and take the series title.
In the battle for the silver medal, O’Shea overtook Henderson on the penultimate lap and crossed the line in second place.
“That was good fun,” said Fry after the race. “It’s the best short track course around. It has lots of jumps and a few different lines you can take.”
“There was no point mucking around with three to go. It was good to open up the lungs a little bit.
“Bec was flying. She was doing really good work hanging onto my wheel. Kath has had a bit of injury trouble this season, and she’s just coming good at the right time of the year, so it’s good to see her up there too.”
In results from the enduro this morning, John Blankenstein won the solo men’s race, whilst Trudy Nicholas took out the women’s race.
NETWORKS: A news feed containing highlights from today’s downhill will be distributed from SBS Sydney at approximately 11am on Monday (March 15).
Highlights of all of the action from the Canberra stage of the 2010 Jayco Australian MTB Series will feature in a 30 minute program on SBS on Sunday, 4 April at 12pm.
For further information including entry lists, results and overall standings, please visit www.nationalseries.com.au.
Round 4 – Canberra Downhill results
Elite Men 1. Chris Kovarik (QLD) - 2:34.84 2. Ben Cory (ACT) – 2:37.16 3. Shaun O’Connor (NSW) - 2:37.16
Elite Women 1. Claire Buchar (QLD) - 3:08.12 2. Claire Whiteman (ACT) - 3:18.70 3. Leigh Douglas (TAS) - 3:20.60
2009/10 Jayco Australian MTB Series – Downhill Final Standings
Elite Men 1. Ben Cory (ACT) – 225 points 2. Shaun O’Connor (NSW) – 218 points 3. Chris Kovarik (QLD) – 208 points