Worlds, From The Mind Of A Rider….
It has been a whirlwind year for me, as anyone who keeps up with me on social media would know. I can’t believe was back on the 1st of September, the memories are still so fresh in my mind it feels like yesterday, and I can’t see them fading any time soon.
In the lead up to the UCI Mountain Biking World Championships, I was in Asia for a UCI categorized Tour of Borneo. I flew directly from Borneo to South Africa on what was already a very tight schedule, and quickly became a nightmare journey. Only 30 minutes before I hopped on my first flight I began to feel slightly ill, but hoped it would soon pass. Unfortunately, it was the onset of food poisoning from my last meal in Borneo, and my flight to Kuala Lumpur was spent being violently sick. Needless to say, I didn’t make friends with any of the people sitting near me that flight.
When I arrived in KL I check myself directly into the medical center to try and rehydrate myself as quickly as possible, and make sure it didn’t turn into something more serious. My body was seriously hurting, but I hoped it would be over soon. I was still sick throughout the flight to Abu Dhabi, but then started to feel comparatively more human on the stretch to South Africa, my final destination.
When I got to South Africa I felt comfortable, almost at home, as I had stayed here during two world cup races and already had my bearings of where I was. I found myself guiding the junior riders around town and on the course, which was a new and rewarding experience. I don’t really consider myself to be the most serious or mature person, so it was interesting to act as a mentor for those riders new to racing at a world level. I surprised myself with my ability to be able to pass on some of the things I have learned, while trying not to overload them.
During the week I was very chilled, as I hadn’t specifically trained for the cross country or the eliminator, and was deliberately avoiding putting any pressure on myself. This was in contrast to last year, when I had been racing the World Cup circuit in Europe, and had high expectations for how I would perform. I was going in as an unknown quantity and I enjoyed not being under pressure. In a way it was my race to win and the other world cup eliminator riders race to lose!
In the Cross Country I was planning on having a good crack on the first lap and see how my XC form was. In the starting area I was enjoying the hype of the race and soaking up the very special moment that comes with representing your country at a world level. The gun went and I started moving up on the fence, only a few hundred meters later, to find myself at a complete stop. I saw bodies and bikes piling up in front of me as I just managed pull up before plowing into American rider Todd Wells. From that point the race was a bit of a write off, so I just rode the course enjoying myself, and being back on my MTB. I was dialing in my skills and trying to get up to speed after road riding so much in the lead up to the race. It’s not often you get the chance to ride in a World Championship event!
As soon as I finished the XC race, I was suddenly hit with a nervous feeling, uncomfortably similar to 12 months prior. I knew I had to put it all on the line to get a result in the Eliminator race. It’s an event where anything can happen and it usually does. One mistake in the grading time trial (TT) and 100 other riders could pass you to take your spot as one of the 32 finalists. It’s hard to control all of the variables that come into play, and from experience I knew that you could only control a few aspects of the event.
Race day came, and I was happy that we got to compete in the morning. I woke up, had breakfast, and tried to calm my nerves by chilling in my room before heading down. Rolling down to the course in Aussie green and gold I was hit by a feeling of pride, and how lucky I was to race for Australia. In the warm up, I did a few sprint efforts, trying to get the engines firing on all cylinders so I could explode out of the gate in the TT and stamp my authority early.
In the time trial I had a good start, but then overcooked the first corner, sliding out both wheels, which forced me to put a foot down. This put me on the back foot and I had to make up the lost time over the rest of the course. Through the rock garden I nailed my line and pedaled with purpose in the key open sections. I crossed the line in top 5 and after all riders had finished I was 6th…. GAME ON!
The nerves eased after I had a good TT, as I knew I might be a shot at the title in the knock out rounds to follow. In the round of 32 I was the final heat, which was an advantage, as I was able to observe how the other races were playing out on the big screen. I had a good draw and would only have to battle the world cup leader in the final round. I had a difficult contest with an Italian rider throughout the first round and almost lost 2nd place at one point. Luckily, I was able to use some of the experience I had gained racing last year, and was able to hold position.
Onto the quarterfinals and it was a case of chasing the Frenchman, Titouan Perrin Ganier, once again. He had been very competitive in the previous heat, and was very fast off the start once again. I was being cautious on the line, so as not to get disqualified for breaking the starting laser, a piece of technology I was slightly nervous of, as I had not raced with it before. I managed to hold 2nd and progress through.
Straight into the semifinals, I found myself getting squeezed out by the French and Italian riders in the first straight. I was in third and knew that without a few risks I would be outside the top four, and going home. In a split second decision I decide to lay it on the line and take the inside line, on the not so beaten track. Expecting to cause chaos I was surprised to be able to slip passed the other two riders ahead and take the lead! From that point I just focused on riding my lines and managed to hold off the chase from behind. I was through to the final and the world title was almost within my grasp….
Time was flying and the big final was looming! I span the legs on the trainer and said to the Aussie crew, ‘Well, I’m obviously going inside again’. I could see that Daniel Federspiel was nervous, which made me calmer. In the start gate I was in a different lane, which made it difficult to get in a good position on the line. The start commands rolled through the speakers…
I was slow off the line and slotted into second on the wheel of Fiederspiel. I swung off his wheel into the pinch onto the sharp right corner and in an almost textbook overtake, I snuck up the inside again and snatched the lead! Straight into the rock garden I bounced off the rocks and made it to the bottom safely. Into the ‘buck jump alley’ it was a choose-your-own-adventure, but I held my line. On to the uphill rocks I got my path dialed without a hiccup. Then straight onto full power pedaling up the dirt road. Hitting the left handed up hill corner I kicked out the back wheel on the uneven surface, and almost lost it. I could hear the other riders right on my wheel again…
Coming down the dual single trail into the gap jump I almost rolled my tire off the rim, with the force I hit the corner. Through the rock field I slotted the middle line and got straight onto the pedals up the final straight hill. I was only just in front and I couldn’t look back in fear I wasn’t strong enough. A few meters before the line, and I knew I had it and could claim the win! I was the 2013 Eliminator World Champion!
I’ve watched a lot of world championships victories over the years, but only ever dreamed of winning the exclusive rainbow jersey myself. I rolled over the line and totally lost control, succumbing to the overwhelming emotions I was feeling. I hadn’t ever thought it was possible.
Standing on the podium, I had to hold back the emotions I was feeling. I was thinking back to my oldest brother Daniel, who inspired me to start riding more seriously. After a car hit him when he was training the mid 2000’s, he has always served as a motivator to keep me focused on my goals. His hopes and dreams of being a professional athlete were taken away from him in that moment. Since then, he has continued to inspire me in how he survived and continues to live life to the fullest with the hand he has been dealt. I was also thinking about the rest of my family and friends who have supported me throughout my cycling career. Especially my Father and Mother, who have always been incredible in the way they support all five of their crazy boys.
I have been so incredibly lucky to have such a supportive network around me. With Giant Bicycles Australia signing me up in December 2012, knowing that I was going into surgery the following week. It just shows the blind faith people have in me sometimes. If someone reeled off the racing I would be doing and the results I would achieve over the past 10 months I wouldn’t even believe it. To all of my associate sponsors. SRAM components, Adidas Eyewear, 4Shaw clothing, Schwalbe Tires, Torq Nutrition, Falls Creek-All Season Resort and Garmin Australia. It has been a wild ride…
Now I look to the final part of the year and there is still heaps more fun and exciting racing to come. I recently got back from China where I was racing my first international cyclocross event. I didn’t get the result I was hoping for, but it was definitely a unique adventure. I also just competed at the Australian University Games in the Gold Coast proving to RMIT that all of my special consideration applications aren’t for nothing, and I actually know how to ride a bike.
In just under a month I will hopefully head to the beautiful Cape-to-Cape MTB stage race, an event that I am keenly looking forward to. www.capetocapemtb.com
In November I hit up the new and exciting Hell Fire cup. Entries are still open and the racing looks super fun. If you are on the fence then just bite the bullet and get involved with the festival of mountain biking just outside Hobart city. Get to www.hellfirecup.com and register today!
There is also potential for me to sneak a final weekend of racing in Forrest for ‘The Forrest Festival’, before I finally get a break from the bike, and I head to Japan for a holiday with my very tolerant and patient girlfriend. I can hardly wait to be shredding through the trees in some deep lines, swapping my bike for some skis. It will undoubtedly be another wild expedition.
Let the adventures roll on…