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Henderson homes in on shot at national title

Bec Henderson.

Bec Henderson. Photo: Sharon Payne

It's a far cry from racing in front of 20,000 at an Olympic Games, but Canberra mountain biker Bec Henderson is still excited about competing at the national championships at Stromlo this weekend.

Henderson is looking to defend her national women's under-23 cross country mountain bike title on her home track, in front of family and friends.

It is her final year as an under 23 before she steps up to open class.

She was hoping the nationals would kick-start a big year, which will culminate at the world championships in Austria in September.

But first she wants to add another national title to her resumé´ on Saturday.

''I'm really happy to have a nationals back here at Stromlo because it's my home town and all your friends and family are here to watch,'' Henderson said.

''It's not going to be the 20,000 spectators that we experienced in London, but it's home ground and we know the course really well.

''It's still good vibes and a really good atmosphere.''

Six months ago, Henderson and boyfriend-coach Dan McConnell were Australia's sole mountain bike representatives at the London Olympics.

Henderson is not the only member of the couple defending a title on Saturday. McConnell is also the reigning Australian champion, but he broke his hand in October which forced him off the bike for three months. He's only been back in training for 3½ weeks.

He's hopeful it has been long enough to get his form back.

But he admits the Oceania Championships in Tasmania in March might be a more realistic goal - especially since he wants to peak for the world cups in Europe in May.

''I haven't done a lot of racing lately … it's not ideal, but I'm probably in the best shape I can be for the preparation I've had,'' McConnell said.

''I'm not in great form, but I'm hoping it will be enough to get me through. I'm trying not to get too worked up about it. It's not ideal and I'm far from my best.

''I've just got to try and have the best race that I can, and if that's the win great, if not I can still look forward to a big year.''

In contrast, Henderson said she ''couldn't complain'' about her preparation, which included winning the elite women's national series event at Thredbo two weeks ago.

''January was a bit up and down with organising a race and illness, but nothing serious and I've had consistent training,'' she said.

''Thredbo, the last national round, went better than I could have imagined so it was a surprise to have better form than I thought.''

MOUNTAIN BIKE CHAMPIONSHIPS

At Stromlo Forest Park

Saturday: 9.30am: Cross country - Elite and under-23 women; 12:30pm: Cross country - Elite and under-23 men; 5pm: Downhill seeding runs - Men and women

Sunday: 10am: Cross country eliminator - Men and women; 4pm: Downhill - Men and women.

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