Daniel McConnell wins national mountain bike series at Stromlo, Rebecca Henderson third

Canberra rider Daniel McConnell on his way to victory in the national mountain bike series at Stromlo on Saturday. Photo: Rohan ThomsonCanberra mountain biker Rebecca Henderson says riding with undiagnosed glandular fever was like “flogging a dead horse”, but she feels like she’s “human again” and building towards next year’s Olympic Games.

Henderson finished third in the women’s cross country in round two of the national mountain bike series at Stromlo on Saturday, while fellow Canberran Daniel McConnell took out the men’s cross country.

It was Henderson’s first race after two months off following her diagnosis with glandular fever.

The 24-year-old had been racing and training with the undiagnosed illness for four months before blood tests finally found the reason behind the fatigue that prevented her from finishing the world championships.

Her goals for next year are top-10 finishes at the World Cup events, the world champs and the Olympics at Rio de Janeiro.

That road back to full fitness and Rio began in her backyard at Stromlo where the women’s race was won by Jenni King, with Australian women’s road race champion Peta Mullens second.

“The mental aspect is very hard to deal with when you’re going out and getting flogged, and it’s just like flogging a dead horse, it’s very physically and emotionally draining,” Henderson said.

“But today it was really nice to be back out, even though I’m not at full fitness, it was good to be back out racing.

“I feel like I’m a human again … before I was sleeping 15 hours at night and now I’m back to the normal routine.”

McConnell was also trying to put a tough year behind him and begin building towards next year’s major events.

He said he struggled in 2015, managing just one World Cup podium – compared to the five podiums he climbed last year.

The 30-year-old said he was building up his fitness for when his season starts in April.

He said his Stromlo win was a good sign, although he had to do it the hard way following a mechanical problem with his chain with just two kilometres to go.

McConnell held a 40-second lead at the time, but was unable to pedal and had to roll and “scoot” to the finish line.

“Hopefully I can get [to Rio] in really good form. I think if I can do that there’s always the chance that I can be up towards the front, so that’s the plan,” McConnell said.

“But I’d just like to get back to riding at my best and hopefully if all goes to plan I can be right up there.”

The event will wrap up with the downhill races on Sunday from noon.

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