29 Aug 2013

If the current 2013 World Cup series leader is supposed to feel pressure as they enter the UCI MTB & Trials World Championships, Rebecca Henderson certainly hasn’t been told.

The Canberran will enter Saturday’s under 23 women’s cross country final as one of the favourites following a stellar 2013 season which has seen her reach the World Cup podium on all five occasions, grabbing two victories and the leader’s jersey after five of six rounds.

“I don’t feel there is much pressure on me, I think I am the under dog of the race, the only pressure that is on me is what I put on myself and I am trying to keep that limited,” said Henderson, 22, who claimed the Series opener in Albstadt (Germany) and the most recent round in Mont Sainte Anne (Canada) earlier this month.

“Right now, I feel good, I am in as good a form as I can be. I haven’t come into the worlds in good form in the last few years as I have either been cooked or injured.

“I feel like everything has gone to plan the whole season,” she added.

Henderson is familiar with the Pietermaritzburg track having finished sixth at the 2012 World Cup round raced on a wet and muddy course following a torrential downpour just minutes before the race.

It should be a vastly different scenario this week with a fast, hard and dusty 2013 World Championships course presented to riders promising a furious contest.

Henderson expected to face tough opposition from the likes of reigning under 23 world champion Jolanda Neff (SUI), Yana Belomoyna (UKR) and Andrea Waldis (SUI).

“There are a lot of fast girls and a couple slipping down from racing elite in the world cups,” Henderson said.  “Neff has been racing elite women and now she has to rejoin the under 23 field for the race so that will be interesting.

“I have been having good battles with Belomoyna and Waldis this season, so potentially there are five girls who could win the race.

“It is such a good course, I think its good for me, so I guess it’s up to me to put it together on the day,” she added.

Should Henderson be victorious on Saturday, she will join Caroline Buchanan (4X 2009 and 2010) as the only other Australian female to claim an elite or under 23 mountain bike world title.

And with Cairns poised to host MTB World Cups in 2014 and 2016, followed by the 2017 World Championships, Henderson is looking forward to leaving the under 23 category on a high and bringing the rainbow jersey to wear in her home country.

“Definitely mountain biking has a bigger profile this year with Dan’s win (World Cup in Albstadt) and off the back of that to have some World Cups going to Australia, I can’t wait to see those events and how big mountain biking will become in Australia over the next few years.”