Oli Beckingsale (top) got himself into the lead at the Commonwealth Games, but it was Liam Killeen (bottom) who took the gold medal (Pics: Jon Hanford)
Australian National Champion Chris Jongewaard made the early running at the Commonwealth Games Men’s XC event, pulling out a lead of over a minute through the first few laps of a dry and rocky Lysterfield Park course in front of a crowd of around 12,000 spectators. Even a small mechanical couldn’t prevent him from extending his lead, leaving a chasing group including Britain’s Liam Killeen and Oli Beckingsale struggling to close the gap.
There was soon something for the Brits to cheer about, though (including Prince Edward, who was apparently in the crowd somewhere). Jongewaard started to pay for his blistering early pace, allowing Killeen to close the gap towards the end of the penultimate lap. Beckingsale struggled with mechanicals but managed to get back on terms with the leaders.
From then on it was a race between the two English riders, with Beckingsale taking the lead before relinquishing it to Killeen who overtook on the climb by taking a steeper, rockier but more direct line on one of the switchback turns. From then on he was unstoppable, winning the race in 2:13.11. Oli took the silver medal just 15 seconds behind. Canadian Seamus McGrath took bronze ahead of a flagging Jongewaard in fourth.
Killeen told the BBC: “I trusted in myself and backed myself to catch up with Jongewaard. Oli and I were the strongest two riders in the race and it was all about fighting it out between us in the late stages.”
In the women’s race it was Canada’s Marie-Hélène Prémont who led almost from the start. Not even an errant kangaroo bounding across the course (a hazard probably unique to Australian racing) could slow her down, and she crossed the line nearly a minute and a half ahead of Rosara Joseph (New Zealand). Kiara Bisaro (Canada) was third.
And in fourth was England’s Amy Hunt, drafted in to the MTB race at the last minute – she travelled to Melbourne for the women’s road race. It was a strong ride by the 19-year-old, who apparently hadn’t ridden an MTB since the UK National Championships in July and is ranked 497th in the world. There’ll always be controversy about the women’s Commonwealth team selection, but that certainly shouldn’t detract from Hunt’s achievement. Definitely one to watch in the future…
- 1 PREMONT Marie-Helene (Canada) 1:55:04
- 2 JOSEPH Rosara (New Zealand) 1:56:31 (+1:27)
- 3 BISARO Kiara (Canada) 1:57:59 (+2:55)
- 4 HUNT Amy (England) 2:01:33 (+6:29)
- 5 STARR Dellys (Australia) 2:02:12 (+7:08)
- 10 MCGAVIGAN Ruth (Scotland)
- 1 KILLEEN Liam (England) 2:13:11
- 2 BECKINGSALE Oli (England) 2:13:26 (+15)
- 3 MCGRATH Seamus (Canada) 2:13:43 (+32)
- 4 JONGEWAARD Chris (Australia) 2:15:08 (+1:57)
- 5 LEUCHS Kashi (New Zealand) 2:15:29 (+2:18)
- 12 RICHARDSON Simon (England)
- 13 MONTGOMERIE Gareth (Scotland)
- 15 ROACH Steven (Wales)
- 18 OUCHTERLONY James (Scotland)
- 19 FERGUSON Lewis (NI)
- 20 ROCHE Andrew (Isle of Man) OVL
- 24 SMART Robert (Guernsey) OVL
- 27 WARDELL Robert (Scotland) DNF