Wildside 4: McConnell scrapes the win

Logie and Fry take it to the line

Australia's national champion Daniel McConnell has hung on by the barest of margins to claim a maiden title in Pure Tasmania Wildside MTB, Tasmania's premier mountain bike stage race, but not before being upstaged by local legend Sid Taberlay who raced to victory on the final stage of competition in Strahan.

Meanwhile, Canberra rider Heather Logie won the women's category by clinching the final stage and extending her overall lead to 2:53 from Launceston's newly-crowned national champion Rowena Fry.

The two category toppers were unexpected victors at race's beginning but proved that consistency is the key to taking one of the country's toughest MTB events.

While McConnell graced the top step of Wildside's winner's podium with a slender eight second advantage, it was Taberlay's performances over the four-day event which captured the hearts and won the accolades of many supporters.

The US-based professional finished the classic with six victories from the seven stages on offer, yet had to settle for seventh position on the general classification.

The 30-year-old Tasmanian will reflect on horrendous mechanical problems suffered on day two, when the four-time winner lost so many minutes as a result of a series of punctures. The sequence of events ultimately cost him the title.

"That tells me I need to take some extra spare tubes and that luck wasn't with me", said Taberlay. "I'm satisfied, I'm riding well. The season's only just started and I'm looking forward to heading back to the US and having some good form over there."

McConnell finished third on the 36km final stage behind Taberlay and fellow Tasmanian Ben Mather, but had enough up his sleeve to head the overall standings and keep his Torq teammate and under 23 Victorian Steele Von Hoff in second place - just eight seconds behind.

McConnell's main threat came from Paul van der Ploeg, who couldn't make up the 29 second deficit required for overall success. "The top three was pretty close, but I just had to mark Paul," said McConnell immediately after crossing the finish line. "We had a strong team with Steele in second so we had to mark Paul and hold the gap."

The open women's category was a race of two riders, with Logie and Fry maintaining close contact throughout the four days, the pair embracing in an emotional display of celebration at the finish line.

"I think that could have easily been Rowena's leg. It was tough so both of us were working really hard and she seriously deserves it too," Logie explained at the finish.

The final stage featured a spectacular race along Ocean Beach on Tasmania's west coast which took in the notorious Hell's Gates and the gateway to Macquarie Harbour.

With the huge surf breaks of the Southern Ocean providing a stunning backdrop, the elite men raced across the wet sands in their bid to gain superiority.

Mather broke away from the group of a dozen rivals and opened what seemed, an unbeatable margin, before battling the last section of racing over gravel roads.

But the part time road racer was caught and overtaken by Taberlay, who produced an amazing turn of speed and finished at the Strahan finish unchallenged. Mather came home 37 seconds behind with McConnell heading the chase group 48 seconds in arrears.

McConnell's overall conquest completes a memorable month for the 24-year-old Melbourne rider, who won the national title held in the Adelaide Hills in January. His next racing season will revolve around racing in the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup series.


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