In a tightly fought race for the downhill title at the SRAM Australian Mountain Bike Championships in Adelaide, Australia Sunday, Chris Kovarik won his fourth national title while world number one, and pre-race favourite, Sam Hill crashed on the final corner just meters from the finish line.
Hill had set the fastest time in the qualifying round to be the last rider out of the start house and looked set to claim the title until it all came undone in sight of the line. Unscathed from the fall he got back up and crossed the line to finish fifth.
Having won the Australian title three years running, from 2000 to 2002, it was a pleasing return to the top step of the podium for Kovarik.
“Hard luck to Sam coming off on that last corner and giving it to me. I was just watching the times and think he would have had it by half a second (if he didn’t crash),” Kovarik said.
For a disappointed Hill it was just the beginning of his season long campaign to reclaim the rainbow jersey of world champion.
On Saturday, meanwhile,Tasmanian Rowena Fry made it back-to-back titles in the cross country race and Beijing Olympian Daniel McConnell of Victoria took the men’s event. For McConnell, who won the under-17 Australian title in 2001, it was a commanding win and his first national championship gold medal at the elite level.
Sid Taberley, who rides for Southern California-based Team SHO-AIR, finished fourth behind Lachlan Norris and Joshua Carlson. Taberlay and Fry won their respective fields Sunday on the Short Track XC.
On the back of his three cross country titles (2002, 04, 06) this was Taberlay’s first victory in the short course cross country.