Cycling: 'Monkey business' almost punctures Australian's title hopes

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australian mountain bike rider Daniel McConnell's dreams of winning a world title on Saturday were almost shattered in extraordinary fashion last week, when he collided with a troop of monkeys while training in South Africa.

McConnell, who finished 21st in the men's cross country at last year's London Olympics, was surprised by the local fauna while training near the Pietermaritzburg course where the world championships take place this weekend.

The tumble left the 28-year-old Trek Factory Racing with a bruised shoulder and skin wounds on both hands, which at one stage looked like preventing him from participating in Saturday's cross-country race.

"For a while I didn't think I would start, but now I am, I am going to give it everything," McConnell said in a Cycling Australia media statement.

"The body is okay on the course, I have a fair bit of skin off, but I have got a few laps in now and am starting to feel very confident on the course."

Victory in opening round of the World Cup series - the first Australian to win a leg since Tour de France winner Cadel Evans 13 years ago - and fifth place in the last round in Canada have put him in third in the overall UCI MTB and Trials standings.

"It has been a bit of a dream season," he added. "I had only had the one top 20 finish coming into the season and have now been on the podium twice and a sixth place too, so the consistency is there.

"I would love to think winning is a possibility here, but it hasn't been the smoothest lead into the race, but on the other side, I have also had some really good training leading in."

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