Canberra Times


Car sleep drives Henderson

She's travelled around Europe and slept in her car before races, but Rebecca Henderson wants to use the London Olympic Games to help land a lucrative European deal with a professional mountain bike team.

Canberra's Henderson will arrive in London on Monday as she and boyfriend Daniel McConnell prepare to be the only Australians in the race next week.

The pair have based themselves in Germany to travel around Europe on the mountain bike circuit.

But they are riding independently and spend their own money to travel to different races, at times even sleeping in the back of their car before racing the next day.

Henderson is realistic about her Olympic chances.

She wants to finish in the top 15, but the Games also give her a chance to impress the best coaches and teams in the world. It's a long way from the track at Mt Stromlo to the London Games, but Henderson says she's ready for the challenge.


She has been based in Germany since March and earned selection after being the leading Australian rider in the world.

While Henderson concedes a gold medal might be out of her reach, the 20-year-old has goals which extend beyond the Olympics.

''Those professional teams have managers, mechanics and they look after you, but getting on one of those teams is difficult,'' Henderson told The Canberra Times.

''That's a big goal for me, by the end of the year to sign with a European team. Basically there is me and Dan and we're fully self-sufficient … it's a lot easier if you have the support.

''Not many Aussies get to walk into a fully supported team and people appreciate you've done it the hard way and it is a good challenge.

''Having an Olympian on your team is a really big deal [on the Europe circuit] so being selected for the Olympics is definitely in my favour.''

Henderson was an outstanding junior rider in Canberra and has been travelling the European circuit for the past five years.

She won the Australian under-23 championships in Adelaide last year and finished third in a World Cup stage in Canada earlier this year.

The men's and women's mountain bike races are two of the last events on the Olympic program.

They will compete at Essex on a 4.7km course which ranges in elevation over the track.

Henderson and McConnell will be two of the least known Olympians in London.

The boyfriend-girlfriend duo has been travelling together for the past two years with McConnell also acting as Henderson's coach.

Henderson is making her Olympic debut while McConnell competed in Beijing.

''I want to go top 15 or top 20, but the experience for me this year is probably the most important,'' Henderson said.

''That's what I'll be aiming for and hopefully that puts me in a pretty good position.''

McConnell finished 39th in Beijing and hopes an injury-free preparation will help him achieve his top-15 goal in London.

''I think I'm in the best form I've ever been in and hopefully I can go from there,'' McConnell said.

''The course is a bit different to most of the ones we've raced on this year, it's almost 100 per cent man-made and it's going to be an even race.''