What an amazing last couple of weeks it has been… It still feels almost unreal to think that I have accomplished my childhood dream of becoming a Mountain Bike World Champion. All the training and hours put into becoming the best rider I can possibly be over the last few years culminated at the perfect time to deliver me to the top spot of the podium in Austria. Crossing that finish line will be a feeling I am certain I will never forget! I arrived in Saalfelden, Austria a week before my race to get some good practice in on the track and settle in to the surroundings. I happened to arrive just after my team mate Aaron Gwin suffered a front brake failure in his DH World Championship race run that sent him flying off the track into the safety netting effectively ruining his race run. As the clear favourite to win the Elite Men’s World title it was gutting for Aaron to not be able to take the win especially after dominating the World Cup circuit this year but what really impressed me was the way he handled this failure. I arrived at the team pits to find a huge crowd of fans gathered outside with Aaron grinning, signing stuff and chatting away to the fans as though he had just won.
To see the way he handled himself after such huge disappointment and how gracious he was in an almost unfair defeat was truly inspiring. It shows that while racing is important to him, there is much more important things in life to get hung up on and I think the way he conducted himself is something many athletes and people alike can learn from. To be able to spend time and get to know such great athletes like this has been great for me as a first year pro and a junior rider and I can contribute part of my success from observing and learning from the likes of the senior riders like Aaron, Justin and Lukus etc. To recap my race, everything went almost exactly to plan. I had learnt a huge amount from placing second at the World Champs last year and the mistakes I made there I was able to correct this time around. If you are willing to examine what you did wrong or what you could do better you can learn so much more from losing a race than you ever will by winning one. I was determined to leave Austria with nothing other than a gold medal around my neck and took off up the hill for the start loop like a cut cat. I wasn’t so keen to be messing around in the middle of the pack during the start loop which proved to be my downfall last year after getting caught up in some chaos and losing too much time to regain. I entered the single track first with the other riders strung out behind and proceeded around the start loop to begin our first full lap of 5. I was keen to stay at the head of the race and out of harms way and I new if I could get through the opening few laps of the race unscathed I would back myself and my level of preparation for this event to see me home in first place.
The French riders were strong and put up a good fight on the first lap and a half switching the lead with me at times before I sensed they were starting to lose strength and fade halfway around the second lap. I decided that this was my time to put the hurt on and attacked up the steepest hill in the woods to open up a 10 second lead and continued to extend it for the remainder of the race winning by 2mins 17. I take away from this win a feeling of great pride in myself and for my country and also satisfaction in achieving the result I dreamed off so long ago as a young kid doing jumps and skids in the back yard at home. I also take away a new found respect for my French rivals for their strong rides and also graciousness in not only congratulating me afterwards but for wishing me luck on the start line. Sportsmanship at it’s finest and great to see it is still so alive and well in our great sport of Mountain Biking! To top the day off, Swiss brothers and my Trek World Racing team mates Lukus and Mathias Fluekinger took home the Silver and Bronze medals respectively to round out a Swiss 1 2 3 on the Elite Men’s podium and become the first ever siblings to share a spot on the podium in the same event. It was an unforgettable moment for all involved and the emotions that day that everyone experienced were through the roof! There is so many people I could thank for their contribution to my success but to write them all down it would take an eternity so thanks to all those who have helped me develop to this point in my career. You know who you are and I can’t mention you all but a big thanks must go to my family, my team Trek World Racing and my Manager Martin for all their efforts.
Next years goals have already been set… I can’t wait for an even more exciting 2013 stepping up into the Under 23 category. It’s gonna be a good one!!! Here is the link to the Trek World Racing video of the XC World Championships. It really does capture the moment for the team and all involved, well worth the watch! http://xc.trekworldracing.com/videos/ If anyone wants to see some more footage of my race click on the YouTube button here on my website. Look forward to writing the next update, Anton