Cooper, Fluker runners-up in Oceania Champs

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World number three ranked Dan McConnell avenged his loss at the Commonwealth Games over Kiwi star Anton Cooper to win the Oceania mountain bike title in Toowoomba, Queensland.

McConnell pushed clear on the penultimate lap of the cross-country battle to finish 35 seconds clear of Cooper, with Aussie Cameron Ivory third.

Cooper, who won the gold medal in Glasgow, went with silver medallist Sam Gaze and McConnell from the start. It was down to McConnell and Cooper from lap three before the Australian pushed clear.

“I am happy to take second place today. I can’t be disappointed losing to a rider of his calibre,” Cooper said.

The Kiwis were allowed to compete in the elite race, after an earlier ruling to start in the under-23 division, which carried no Olympic qualifying point. Therefore Cooper’s second placing in the elite race came with invaluable qualifying points towards the Rio Olympics.

Australian Rebecca Henderson, ranked 18th in the world, started fast and managed to hold off a strong effort from New Zealand champion Kate Fluker who finished 12 seconds back with compatriot Karen Hanlen finishing fast for third.

It was a bittersweet day for a New Zealander who needed to win in the women’s race in order to secure the continental qualifying slot for Rio, as there is virtually no chance that the Kiwi women can accumulate sufficient points on the world circuit to earn a country ranking spot.

New Zealand riders made their mark in the women’s ranks with Kiwi riders making a clean-sweep of the age titles. Rising Rotorua star Amber Johnston took out the under-23 title, Auckland’s Jemma Manchester won the under-19 honours with her sister Jessica claiming the under-17 title.

Sophie Tyas won the elite women’s downhill crown in 3:26.33, a second clear of Canadian champion Claire Buchar, while New Zealand’s big guns in the men’s gravity competition bypassed the championships.

Men:

Elite: Dan McConnell (AUS) 1:29.50, 1; Anton Cooper at 35s, 2; Cameron Ivory (AUS) at 1:36, 3. Also NZers: Dirk Peters at 6:31, 4; Carl Jones at 12:08, 6; Sam Gaze dnf.

Under-23 men: Scott Bowden (AUS) 1:18.09, 1; Ben Bradley (AUS) at 2:478, 2; Chris Hamilton (AUS) at 3:28, 3. Also NZers: Ben Oliver at 4:12, 4; Jack Compton at 4:22, 5; Josh Parkin at 4:59, 6; Gareth Cannon at 7.20, 8;

Under-19: Liam Jefferies (AUS) 1:05.42, 1; Michael Potter (AUS) at 1:18, 2; Bryan Dunkin (AUS) at 1:58, 3. Also NZers: Nathan Jphnston at 4:36, 7; Harrison Mudgway at 8:50, 11; Paul Wright at 9:45, 13;

Under-17: Cameron Wright (AUS) 48:48, 1; Matthew Dinham (AUS) at 1:03, 2; Dean Cane (AUS) at 2:34, 3. Also NZers: Eden Cruise at 2:46, 4; Jack Wilson at 3:41, 7;Taylor Johnston at 9:06, 10.

Under-15: Riley King (AUS) 36:17, 1; Connor Johnston (NZL) at 8s, 2; Josh Tanzen (AUS) at 1:25, 3.

Women:

Elite:  Rebecca Henderson (AUS) 1:28.10, 1; Kate Fluker at 49s, 2; Karen Hanlen at 3:10. 3.

Under 23: Amber Johnston (NZL) 1:16:30, 1; Emily Parkes (NZL) at 1:55, 2; Mary Gray (NZL) at 2:01, 3.

Under 19: Jemma Manchester (NZL) 1:20.49, 1; Shannon Hope (NZL) at 1:47, 2; Megan Williams (AUS) at 1:41, 3.

Under-17: Jessica Manchester (NZL) 1:00.06, 1; Phoebe Young (NZL0 at 1:05, 2; Sarah Tucknott (AUS) at 50.0, 3.

Downhill:

Men elite: Jared Graves (AUS) 2:43.48, 1; Richie Rude Jnr (USA) 2:46.37, 2; Connor Fearson (AUS) 2:46.94, 3. Also NZers: James Maltman 2:55.89, 11; Daniel Meilink 2:57, 03, 14.

Women, elite: Sophie Tyas (NZL)  3:26.33, 1; Claire Buchar (CAN) 3:27.61, 2; Tegan Malloy (AUS) 3:32.73, 3.