Bec McConnell of Australia finished third at the 2019 XC MTB World Championships in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec last year. We caught up with her to see what 2019 was like for her and what she's been doing to keep busy and stay motivated this season.
I’m a pretty normal girl. I like to think I’m down to earth. I love to laugh, travel and see new place but also enjoy my time at home. I am a family girl and a proud Aussie. My Instagram profile says: Australian MTB Champion, Sausage Dog lover, Sweet Tooth which probably a fair summary.
Where are you from and where do you live?
I am from Canberra, Australia where I still live.
Who do you ride for?
Primaflor Mondraker X-Sauce, a Spanish UCI Elite Team.
What are some of the accomplishments that you're most proud of?
My Bronze Medal at the 2019 World Championships is my most proud accomplishment, It’s the biggest thing I have achieved especially after a disaster season the year before and it’s also the freshest in my memory. Winning the Under 23 World Cup in 2013 was also one of my proudest moments.
What were some of the highlights of the 2019 season for you?
2019 was a dream, I started the World Cup season ranked just inside the top 40 after illness in 2018 and finished the World Cup series in 5th position, 4th in the World Rankings and a Bronze medal at the World Championships with 2 World Cup podiums. One of the biggest highlights came early in the season at World Cup #2
where I finished second. Seeing the faces and tears of my team and my husband I’ll never forget those moments. I think that’s when we all really started to believe in me again.
What were your hopes leading into the 2020 season?
I really just wanted to prove to myself that 2019 was not a one off and that I am capable of racing at the front with the best in the World. I wanted to build on some of the mistakes I made in 2019, I had some amazing race days but also missed a couple of big opportunities with my lack of experience.
How have you been keeping busy and staying motivated to train during the Covid-19 pandemic and the cancellation of most of the season?
It’s been a super tough time but one of my lifelong dreams came true when we got our new puppy Lenny. I have dreamed of having a dachshund since I was just a kid but it’s never been possible with all the travel. It wasn’t the timing that we had planned but he has made me so happy and probably helped cope with the current situation more than I could realise. As for motivation, regardless of whether racing will go ahead in 2020 there will still be seasons to come in the future and I know that I have to be ready and keep progressing for whenever the time comes but for sure the motivation comes and goes.
What has changed about your training due to the Covid-19 pandemic?
Training has looked more like the building block that we do in summer through December to February. I’m mostly doing long rides and trying to keep it fun and adventurous and full of snacks to keep me motivated and happy.
What does a typical day look like for you?
At the moment a typical day is a bit different to pre COVID and pre Lenny. At the moment we are in the middle of winter so it’s mostly a long breakfast and coffee with Dan in the morning (we are a bit slow to get out for training from the cold), followed by a long ride and then an evening walk with Lenny. It’s dark just after 5pm at the moment so the evenings are pretty quiet. A little puppy training, some life admin and then usually a series on Netflix or dinner with family.
How did you get into mountain biking?
My brother and my Dad were into it before me. As a young kid I was just really sporty and loved to play field hockey and athletics/cross country running. The local mountain bike community was just so great which kept me interested and progressively MTB just became my focus.
What is something you believe that other people think is crazy?
I believe that honesty is the best policy. I try to apply that to all that I do. It’s not crazy but it’s also not so common, and sometimes it does get me into a little trouble.
What's the hardest part about being an XC mountain bike racer?
You’re always on the job. It really is a 24/7 thing, every moment is important whether it’s training, recovering or nutrition. For me one of the most difficult things is leaving my family, friends and home for 6+ months per year, and sometimes the strict diet required as I do love sweet food.
What's the best part about being an XC mountain bike racer?
There cannot be only one best part! There are an overwhelming amount of amazing things about being a mountain bike rider. But as a racer, that feeling of crossing the finish line when you have given absolutely everything and it has all come together on race day! For me the moment is when you achieve something that you never considered a possibility for yourself.
What are your strengths?
I’m quite determined when I set my mind to something. I am willing to work hard and don’t give up easily. I expect a lot from myself.
What are your weaknesses?
I lack the self confidence so sometimes don’t back myself. I’m also not super powerful, my max power output is surprisingly very low!
Where is your favourite place to ride?
Finale Ligure in Italy is probably my favourite riding location in the World, the area is beautiful with amazing mountains located right on the beach. The climbs are long and the trails are incredible with the perfect amount of holding on for dear life and achievable when riding on an XC bike.
What's been your worst crash over the years?
I have had lots of decent crashes, crashing the day before the World Championships in 2013 was not ideal, just recently I crashed and had a concussion but the worst was probably when I was a teenager and had gravel rash and scabs covering one side of my face.
Who's your favourite rider?
It’s predictable but true my husband Dan, I am so proud of all of his achievements and we still can’t wipe the smile off our faces when we think of his World Cup win in 2013. I have watched all of his hard work and commitment over the last 10+ years and he has also showed me the way and what’s possible for an Aussie to achieve.
What annoys you?
How much time do you have? I’m often quite easily irritated and I do struggle to live with most people for extended periods of time, I have Dan perfectly trained. I hate bad hygiene and I can’t stand chewing noises.
What makes you happy?
Good quality people! There is nothing better.
What do you enjoy away from bikes?
I really enjoy the little things; spending time with people I really like, and the typical Aussie BBQ and just getting outdoors. I miss the family holidays we used to take.
What's your favourite non-bike website?
Does Netflix count? Otherwise Google!
If you weren't a pro mountain biker, what would you be doing?
Such a tricky question… I love to keep busy and always have something on the go but I haven’t discovered yet what I want to do when I ‘grow up’.
Where do you think the future of women's cycling is headed?
In mountain bike we are very fortunate that our sport has progressed well. Mountain bike races are the same weekend for both men and women, we race on the same courses and we get equal coverage with the live broadcasting of the World Cup and World Championships races. The prize money is equal. There is a huge support for women’s mountain biking and the racing is proving to be unpredictable and exciting. But there is still a lot of work to do, we are not as well represented in our sport. There is less depth and less money for women but I strongly believe this can and will continue to improve.
What does the future hold for Rebecca McConnell?
Who knows!! A family one day but as a female racer that’s complicated!!! Especially when you’re from the other side of the World to the big races. I hope after racing I can help improve the opportunities for Aussie to race internationally.
You can see some of the interviews that Bec McConnell has done with fellow XC racers Henrique Avancini, Kate Courtney, Mathias Flückiger and more on the Primaflor Mondraker website here