As for riders, we’re stoked to continue with our same and favourite members!
“Sick” MICK HANNAH
2018 marks my 17th World Cup season. I’m excited to be heading into another year with Polygon UR behind me. I believe we have the best support and equipment to help us reach our goals! — Mick Hannah
I’m really looking forward to starting the 2018 season, I’ve had an awesome off season and I’m ready to race! — Tracey Hannah
I’m really looking forward to competing in Speed and Style events this year at Crankworx as well as Fest Series and some special events I’m working on! — Sam Reynolds
I’m really happy to be back racing for another season with the Polygon UR Team, we’ve done some great testing sessions with new products this winter and I feel really well on the bike. I can’t wait to start the season and see how it goes — Alexandre Fayolle
Happy to be with the Polygon UR Team for a second year, 2017 was a year I’d like to forget due to all the injuries so I’m looking forward to getting 2018 underway and getting faster and stronger as the year progresses! — Kenta Gallagher
FABIEN “COUSCOUS” COUSINIÉ
It feels really good to start this season with the same group of riders and consolidate the hard work that everyone has done last year. We still have a couple of big goals on our calendar and that for sure makes it a super exciting season for everyone! On my riding side this year I’ll take you on a new video series to hopefully motivate you to travel with your bike more often, stay tuned! — Fabien Cousinié
All our riders will only be able to race at the top level thanks to our amazing hard working staff!
We are proud to welcome three new sponsors; Promax, Smanie and M2O Industries.
We welcome Promax Components for handlebars, stems, seatposts and gear housing. Promax is part of a leading group manufacturing bike components; we are actively working with them to develop high-end components while keeping them affordable for all riders. We learnt a lot from the past few years and we will bring our experience to develop some new technologies on Promax products. It’s a really exciting challenge!
Smanie saddles really want to push into the mountain bike high-end market and we are going to work on product development with cool custom designs and new features!
We will be working with the new Australian brand M2O industries, which will support the team with riding compression socks. This will help riders on recovery as well as on the performance side.
We are also thrilled to continue our partnership with all the brands that have been supporting us for the past few years
As far as the racing schedule, you’ll find the Polygon UR Team at all DH world cups, all Crankworx, selected EWS, other fun events and festivals.
During the Crankworx Redwoods DH yesterday, Tracey went over the bars. After a check with a doctor, she was advised not to compete after a concussion and to stay off the bike for a week. Tracey will take the rest she needs and we will see her back in Croatia!
Video 1 featuring pre-race interviews with Sian A’hern, Troy Brosnan, Mick Hannah, Tracey Hannah and more. Race categories include U13, U15, U17 and Masters Men and Women followed by U19 and Elite Women.
Video 2 featuring Junior (U19) Men and Elite Men.
Troy Brosnan (SA) and Tracey Hannah (QLD) returned to the top of the Australian downhill stage taking out the elite men’s and women’s titles at the 2018 MTBA Downhill National Championships in Bright, Victoria on Sunday.
It was a heart in the mouth moment for Brosnan, who was first down the track in the elites and laid down a 3:46:78, before last year’s champion Jack Moir
(NSW) went 0.09 within knocking the South Australian from top of the podium.
“Having Jack come down so close was very nerve wracking and I’m super stoked to get the win.”
“I was little disappointed last year losing the sleeve but getting it back this year is amazing,” the five time national champion commented moments after the finish.
Jackson Frew (NSW) put in a super run to take his first ever elite men’s medal, with Michael Hannah (QLD) fourth and Dean Lucas (VIC) in third after he crashed mid- way in his run snapping off the seat post.
In the women, all attention was turned towards Hannah who was chasing her own slice of history to become the first Australian female to win 10 downhill titles.
The Cairns rider smashed her way down the course to produce an unbeatable time of 4:37:78.
“It’s super cool, it’s always awesome racing in Australia, just being able to take that flag back overseas and race with the top riders in the world is pretty special to me – so yeah, I’m stoked.”
The world number two was more than 16 seconds in front of Tegan Molloy (NSW) who was racing at her first national championships in two years with Sian A’Hern (NSW) in third.
There were more celebrations for the Canyon Factory Racing Team after Kye A’Hern (NSW) took out the national jersey in his first year in the junior men ahead of local Aaron Gungl (VIC) and Matt Carter (VIC).
For the junior women, Ellie Smith (NSW) retained her title with a powerful display of riding to force Sally Potter (NSW) into the silver medal position.
2018 MTBA National Downhill Championships Results
1. Troy Brosnan 03:46.8
2. Jack Moir 03:46.9
3. Jackson Frew 03:51.0
1. Tracey Hannah 04:37.8
2. Tegan Molloy 04:54.0
3. Sian A’hern 05:01.8
Junior (U19) Men
1. Kye A’hern 03:55.0
2. Aaron Gungl 04:02.5
3. Matt Carter 04:03.4
Junior (U19) Women
1. Ellie Smith 05:23.7
2. Sally Potter 06:23.0
In this interview, I talked with Mick and Tracey Hannah, two of Australia’s top downhill riders. At the time, both riders were fresh off their successes at the 2017 World Championships in Cairns, their home track.
From your perspective, is riding about legs and body, or is it your head? Which is more important?
Mick Hannah (MH):
I was having this conversation with someone this morning: one of the aspects I love so much about downhill is that it takes a complete athlete in all of those aspects. The mental side is important, but the physical and technological sides are also hugely important. At different times, different parts of those things are the focus, but I don’t think that one’s more important than the other.
When you’re at the top of the start hill with a four-minute race ahead of you, you can’t get anything wrong.
Tracey Hannah (TH):
If you don’t have the physical fitness, you’ll lack confidence. If you lack confidence, your skills are going to be down. If your skills are down, if you’re not ticking every box, something’s going to go amiss. When you’re at the top of the start hill with a four-minute race ahead of you, you can’t get anything wrong.
So is confidence more important than form?
TH: I think you can see the difference between the confident and the hesitant rider. A confident rider will get away with a lot more than a skilful rider that’s hesitating. I think you can get away with a lot (once you get to a certain skill level). At World Cup level, everyone’s a good rider, but the difference between confident and hesitant is huge. You can have the best form in the world but be hesitating, so the confident rider with less form is still going to be better. But really, confidence still comes from preparation!
You can fool others but not yourself. You can’t fool trees or rocks or the stop watch.
MH: Yeah, they say the harder you work the luckier you get. There are two different types of confidence. One isn’t earned or deserved, that kind of confidence (or arrogance) is a dangerous place to be. You think you can get away with it but you haven’t put the work in. I’ve seen some guys get away with it, but mostly if it’s false confidence (and they don’t put the preparation in) it’s going to blow up, it’s fickle and really easily shaken. The other type of confidence (real confidence) is fact, and it’s based on repetition. It’s about proving to yourself that you can actually do it over and over again.
TH: I think that the more preparation you do, the more concrete evidence you get that you can achieve. Confidence from nothing (without the preparation) is bluff. You can fool others but not yourself. You can’t fool trees or rocks or the stop watch.
Is mental training a part of your preparation regime?
TH: It’s not necessarily a part of my training, but my coach focuses on helping me push when I’m most mentally down – which is usually in the gym or out on the road bike. In a way, technically, you are mentally training if you’re working hard when you’re having a hard day or a down week, and it really helps if your coach can notice when you’re down so they can help you to get through the hard times.
It’s definitely about being in the moment – how you feel in the moment can affect you, and it’s how you can get back quickly that makes the difference. Especially when you don’t know when you’re going to be down mentally. So, the better prepared you are and the more practice you get, the easier it is to bring yourself back when it matters.
MH: Mental training’s a funny thing: it’s not like you can just go and lift weights like you can for physical training. You never know, figuratively speaking, when something mentally heavy is going to be there when you have to lift. That’s when it’s important to go back to the people that we have around us, like our trainers and team, and for me and Tracey, our Dad. Having the right people around you at the right time is important.
It’s also important to use the chances you have to get better: the other day I was in the gym and doing these intervals, and I looked up at my trainer and my mind was dead, it was so hard to keep pushing, and those are the times you need to realise that this is a chance to train my mind. You never know when a challenge will come up in World Cup, so when those opportunities occur in day-to-day training or even life in general, it’s really important to take those opportunities to strengthen your mind and develop the routines to get you back quickly when things go wrong.
So, when things go wrong, how do you handle it?
TH: I like it when the shit hits the fan! When I think back to the last season, I don’t think I had a race when something catastrophic didn’t happen… I remember, after I’d had a bad practice session, my team manager told me that he likes it when difficult things happen to me because it’s when I perform my best. If you take challenge the right way, it gives you a lot more energy, which is a big advantage. Some pressure and stress is a plus, it takes your mind off racing and puts your mind on “let’s get the job done and fight for this”. Some athletes handle it and some don’t, but I get fuel for my fire when shit hits the fan.
Some athletes handle it and some don’t, but I get fuel for my fire when shit hits the fan.
MH: It’s similar for me – when something goes wrong it takes the pressure off and gives me a problem to solve. Sort of the underdog feeling: I tell myself “if I’m able to perform in this situation I’ve really achieved something”. When everything’s going perfectly I’m more nervous, because my mind’s not as occupied which can let it get out of control. For me, when I’m sick, or there are mechanicals or crashes or weather, it gives me a problem to solve and a challenge to rise up to.
Do either of you have a routine pre-race to get you into a prepared headspace?
MH: I try to not make my race days much different from a regular training day. There’s obviously some routines we need to go through but I just get up and have my breakfast and get stuck into the routine of the race day and repeat things that work well in my training. Doing things repetitively helps when you’re under stress or when things go wrong – the things that you’ll do automatically when things are challenging are the things that you’ve done repetitively in training. To try and do something new on a race-day is a problem – because you haven’t practised it and your body won’t know what to do.
TH: It’s about keeping your race-day routine as normal as you can. Practise, practise, practise. No matter what comes your way – I try to keep exactly the same routine. That helps make you feel as prepared as possible; it’s routine that helps you feel most calm before a race.
I don’t think it matters if you’re racing, or starting a business, or working, or interacting socially, it’s the same for everybody. It’s learning how to work with the fear that’s important.
What’s the toughest mental challenge you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
TH: Injury has been the toughest for me – going through injury is hard. When you try to come back riding you have so much fear and anxiety. I think my toughest was coming back after breaking my leg. I guess, physically it didn’t take long, but mentally it took years. Each year would pass and I’d realise that I’d made progress until finally I got to the point where I stopped thinking about being injured and the fear went away.
After you’ve had your first big injury you go from Superman to fragile, injury reminds you that you’re fragile and getting over that is really important.
Looking at the young, fast riders, they’re so good, but they’ve got to get through their first big crash and then we’ll see how fast they are.
MH: Injuries are the obvious one – looking at the young, fast riders, they’re so good, but they’ve got to get through their first big crash and then we’ll see how fast they are. Confidence is built on consistency, and consistency is achieving things and riding well. But when you have a big injury or a string of small injuries, you think “what am I doing wrong?” so you start trying to be careful and you still get hurt no matter what you do. Then you start thinking “am I any good at this, should I be doing this?”.
A different part of challenge for me, is that I’ve got two boys and another on the way, and I’ve wrestled with myself about “should I be growing up and getting a real job and staying at home with the kids more?”. I’ve had to figure out what I want to teach the kids and to get to a place of realising that riding bikes is who I am. I’ve realised that quitting my dream won’t teach the kids to stick with theirs – that was tough to come to terms with. People say “oh, you’re still playing with your bikes”, but playing with my bikes is my profession – I have to get past the stereotype of a traditional job. I’ve done plenty of manual labour and regular jobs, but racing is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I’ve realised that quitting my dream won’t teach the kids to stick with theirs – that was tough to come to terms with.
How do you deal with fear?
TH: I think fear is the biggest thing that stops a lot of riders (especially my female riding friends) from progressing. But you can’t really get past fear until you accept that mountain biking is a sport where you’re probably going to hurt yourself. Mountain biking is risky, and you have to be OK with taking on that risk. Crashing is part of my riding and until I accepted that pushing my limits was how I was going to get better, I wasn’t progressing. You have to teach yourself to overcome fear otherwise it’s a major limitation. It’s about accepting that this is what riding is about.
I think Jorge Lorenzo said, “if you can’t get over the fear, then you need to stop”, because that’s the most dangerous thing you can carry when you’re riding: fear is the biggest thing that’s going to stop you from riding and riding well.
MH: It’s basic psychology and physiology. It’s interesting to see that if you’re afraid of bad things happening, the biggest cause of those things happening is the fear! I don’t think it matters if you’re racing, or starting a business, or working, or interacting socially, it’s the same for everybody. It’s learning how to work with the fear that’s important.
Like Bec Henderson and Dan McConnell (http://flowmountainbike.com/features/fast-heads-bec-henderson-and-dan-mcconnell/), Tracey and Mick haven’t worked formally with a sport psychologist. Nevertheless, like Bec and Dan, they’ve both developed some powerful ways of staying focused under pressure, and coming back quickly when things go wrong. Again, because they’ve had to figure this out for themselves, these methods have been advanced over time through a process of observation and practise.
From my perspective, there are five ways in which Tracey and Mick have learnt to excel from a sport-psychology outlook:
Preparation, practise, and repetition are the keys to consistent performance:When we’re under pressure we revert to our defaults. Because this is especially true on the mountain bike, it’s really important to train our defaults through consistent practice and repetition, so that we can trust that our bodies will do the right thing automatically when we’re stressed, distracted, or frightened. Both Tracey and Mick make daily, consistent practice the centre of their training, so that they can easily repeat those embedded skills when competing. They’ve also learnt that confidence is really about competence – the more you can trust in your ability (through repeated practise and hard work), the more confident you will be.
Take every opportunity to train your focus, especially when things are difficult:You can’t prepare for things to go wrong by waiting for things to go wrong. Mick and Tracey both use opportunities in their regular training to practise regaining their focus, and dealing with the difficulty in front of them. This skill is much more useful than distracting yourself when you’re not really there. Rather than letting your mind wander as a way of escaping discomfort, learn to pay attention when things are difficult, painful, or upsetting; by making room for the discomfort, you are training your ability to be present and focused no matter what the challenge.Read about riding in the here and now here: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/the-soapbox-riding-in-the-here-and-now/
Reframe difficulty as challenge:Tracey and Mick have both dealt with some pretty big challenges, but both of them actually enjoy it when things go wrong. Being able to reframe an annoyance, difficulty, or disaster as a challenge that you can step up to, is a huge advantage. Instead of focusing on the things that go wrong, both Mick and Tracey have learnt to enjoy these opportunities to excel.
It’s important to remember that without the hard work to develop a strong skills base, it’s difficult to see difficulty as challenge. In psychology, we talk about the perception of control. When a person perceives that she is in control of a situation, stress is interpreted as challenge (we call this eustress), but when we don’t feel in control we feel helpless, and experience distress. We can increase our perception of control by practising consistently in increasingly difficult situations, and by expecting that things will go wrong. Read about how to do that here: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/how-expecting-to-fail-can-improve-your-performance/
Don’t get too hung up on what’s happened, and work with yourself to move forward:Both Mick and Tracey have had major challenges (including injuries) throughout their careers. A big plus for both of them, is focusing on improving and moving forward as riders, rather than getting hung up on what’s happened in the past. To do this, they’ve both accepted that risk is a part of riding and competition, and are better able to deal with the consequences of those risks when they occur.Read about getting your mojo back here: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/the-soapbox-getting-your-mojo-back/
Accepting fear and pain is integral to being an effective rider:Tracey and Mick both acknowledge that one of the biggest dangers in mountain biking is fear: it’s usually the fear of something going wrong that leads to that very thing happening. Accepting fear as a normal part of riding, and committing to effective action in its presence is a key to improvement. Nevertheless, they also understand that fear is reasonable up to a point. Without the skills to back you up, confidence (or arrogance in this instance) will get you in trouble. Learning to know the difference is paramount.
Dr. Jeremy Adams has a PhD in sport psychology, is a registered psychologist, and director of Eclectic Consulting Ltd. He divides his time between mountain biking, working with athletes and other performers, executive coaching, and private practice.
In past lives, Jeremy has been a principal lecturer in sport and performance psychology at a university in London, a senior manager in a large consulting firm in Melbourne, a personal trainer in Paris, and a scuba instructor in Byron Bay. He’s also the author of a textbook on performance in organisational management, a large range of professional and popular articles, and a regular blog about the joys and perils of being human (www.eclectic-moose.com).
Jeremy lives and works in Hobart and can be contacted through his website (www.eclectic-consult.com) or on (03) 9016 0306.
Queensland’s Tracey Hannah is having an all-time World Cup season as well as winning several Crankworx downhill events, but Garbo had been on her list for some time, “It’s kind of a goal of mine, and for the last two years, I’ve been getting closer and closer to the Canadian girls. So to finally take the win is exciting.”
Colombian downhill racer Marcelo Guitierrez Villegas won the men’s race for the fifth time in a row. “I think it’s just Sam, Jack and me just keep trying the hardest,” he said. “People just kind of give up, but me I’m just loving it. Sometimes people ask me what’s my favourite track in the world and I answer Garbo. I am just loving it all.”
Jack Moir from Morriset, NSW is also having a great UCI World Cup season, currently 5th in the overall standings. He’s also known for his endurance, having claimed top 10 finishes at the first two Enduro World Series rounds in Rotorua and Derby. He finished 16 seconds behind Marcelo which was good enough for 3rd, behind New Zealand’s Sam Blenkinsop.
Aussie downhiller, now Whistler local, Chris Kovarik finished 5th and Canberra’s Timmy Eaton finished inside the top 20. Fellow Canberian, 16 year old Kye A’Hern finished 2nd in U17 men behind Pemberton local Lucas Cruz, with a time that would’ve seen him scrape in just behind Eaton into 20th in Elite.
1. Marcelo Guitierrez Villegas (COL) 12:21.19
2. Sam Blenkinsop (NZL) 12:27.36
3. Jack Moir (AUS) 12:37.13
4. Eddie Masters (NZL) 12:39.04
5. Chris Kovarik (AUS) 12:40.62
19. Tim Eaton (AUS)
27. Ben Dengate (AUS)
28. Matthew McCorkell (AUS)
41. Dave Habicht (AUS)
Tracey Hannah has won her ninth Elite Women Downhill Australian Championships with a flawless run on the final day of the 2016 Subaru Australian MTB Championships in Bright, Victoria.
The 27-year-old proved just why she has reigned in her division since taking her first title back in 2004, with Lisa Mathison (QLD) and Danielle Beecroft (NSW) rounding out the podium.
“It’s good take that form overseas with me and to fly the Aussie flag over there makes me really proud to race for this country.”
It would be Hannah’s only Australian competition ahead of the Cairns World Cup next month, and the Queenslander didn’t let the huge contingent of fans down that cheered her down the course.
“Everybody knows my name and my nickname.”
“It’s really good the support and look forward to that when we have the world cup it’s gonna be a million times that in my home town can’t wait.”
Despite a hiccup at the start of the seeding run on Saturday which saw her flip over the handlebars, the world number three would still record the fastest time for the finals.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself to have a good run.”
With world number 12 Tegan Molloy missing with a broken collarbone, it was left to the returning Beecroft to throw the down the gauntlet, and the New South Wales rider held the hot-seat with a 5:15:87 run.
That was until 2004 Athens Cross Country Olympian Lisa Mathieson, tossed age aside and took the top spot by 10seconds, showing she’s revelling in being back on the big stage.
“Wicked to be back to have a crack at this level of racing, and a bonus to come back and face riders like Tracey at the Nationals and be amongst this atmosphere.”
However Hannah was tearing down Mystic Mountain and left no doubt as to who would be taking home the gold for record ninth time.
She clocked 4:39:12 more than 16 seconds ahead of her fellow Queenslander.
No one has attempted to double them up since Nathan Rennie and Andrew Mills back in (approx) 2001. Mick’s been thinking about giving it a go for 12 years. It only took him two runs to commit and huck it. Our favourite part is Tracey Hannah’s scream!
The Hutchinson UR team announces their release date for the movie “A Racer’s Dream” on the 18th of December on the internet.
Until then, to mark the count down, we are going to release some extracts of the movie.
Here is the first official extract of the movie. It’s focussed on Tracey Hannah’s broken leg which she suffered at the World Cup in Val d’Isère last year. The 14 months leading up to her bronze medal in Pietermaritzburg were definitely not the easiest for her: 3 operations, 1 broken femur, 3 broken collarbones, bruised ribs and a broken toe were what she had to deal with before she could get back to racing.
Here is an insight of what Tracey had to overcome to be back on the podium.
Stay tuned for more extracts. The whole movie will be available on all MTB websites for the 18th of December!!
Inevitable! Thats one of my most used words this season. When asked about my injuries, my answer is always, ”in a sport like this, injuries are inevitable“. Taking 5 years from a sport that I love just gave me a drive and a passion built of concrete. I realised this week that the reason I can continue through every injury is because I love this sport. I had a break and chose to come back, you would be surprised how refreshing and strengthening that is. I now have something to prove, and thats to ”never give up.”
Coming into the final race of the season was weird for me. I had raced just 4 races and arriving in Austria knowing this was the last World Cup for 2013 actually made me feel un easy. All of a sudden the off-season was ever so close and the memories of the last one came flooding back. Not only had the last off-season been but a nightmare but this season didn’t really go as planned either.
I didn’t know what to expect as I had raced here just once over a year ago. Last year when the World Championships were here I was at home with crutches in arm. Racing this race was significant in both the positive and negative. I had come into the final race of the season without injury, but on the down side I had been through another World Cup season incapable of competing in every round.
The thoughts of injuries, teams, surgeries and the off season lingered in my mind as I got ready for practice on the first day. The hardest thing about riding is separating the way you feel in your mind from the way you ride your bike. Over the whole weekend I had a constant battle between the way I was feeling mentally and how I was riding physically. The first day of practice ended in not one run without some kind of crash or mistake. An extremely tiring first day.
Saturday we practiced early again and then seeding was later on in the afternoon. I went up for my first practice run and as I jumped down one of the sections I landed on a rock and smashed the drivetrain of my bike and had to roll down to the pits for repairs. The bike was ready just in time to make it up for one last practice run. I rolled down fast trying to practice my lines ready for the qualifying run that was to come later on. I made a few big mistakes but I wasn’t to worried as I had felt like i was just rushing the last practice run.
Race day was upon us and I looked outside to a beautifully freezing, sunny day. I was in a great mood ready to go. The final race of the season had arrived and it was a perfect day to ride. I went up for some practice runs and it was a mess. In the 2 practice runs I did I was able to crash my bike 4 times. I had dirt and mud all over me, it looked like I had literally rolled down a hill of dirt and mud for fun.
Because of the way practice went I decided to sit down and consider what was going on. I realised that I had been putting pressure on myself to do well here, in a way I guess I felt I wanted to redeem myself for the lack of World Cup results that I missed out on this season. Finally I decided that I needed to race for me, race my best race. Relax on the bike and ride to my current best ability.
One of my main goals for this race was to get through it without injury. I wanted to be as healthy as possible to have the best off-season I’ve ever had. With that in mind I headed up for my race run. I spent time warming up on the trainer before it was time to go. I was in the start gate, ready to go. I had a good run, it was the first full clean run I had all weekend. I was happy to get down with out a crash and not too many mistakes. I know that I rode slow but this season wasn’t the goal anymore. My eyes are on 2014!! I am healthy and ready to get fit and strong so I can have my best season.
I just want to take this moment to thank my fans, my family, friends, my team Hutchinson UR and mostly I want to thank my sponsors.
The aftermath of what happened on the weekend still hasn’t really sunk in. Is this real, is what just happened true. Was I standing on the podium at the first World Championships that I have raced in 6 years? At my first race in 2 months due to yet another injury.
We arrived early in South Africa because the racing in Whistler was done and dusted. We had two weeks to spare before the World Champs. Arriving early was good because it means that we could get used to the horrid jet lag that was about to come upon us. The time change was completely opposite to that of Canada…. We were in for a shock.
Our Dad arrived on Sunday, the start of Worlds week. It was really great having him around, his advice to us in invaluable and irreplaceable. No one understands Mick and I like he does and no one has the mentoring skills that he is gifted with.
The day before practice I accidentally slept in ’til 11 am which didn’t set me up well for a week of early starts. I wasn’t sure what to expect or how practice would go since I had hardly ridden my bike. I changed frames completely and did just a few days of runs in Whistler a week earlier.
The night before practice, it turns out I was absolutely nervous as. I was excited, anxious and awake all in one. It was sure that I wouldn’t be sleeping for a while. I had finally fallen asleep what felt like 5 minutes before my alarm went off. It was time to begin a week of epic downhill racing which I hadn’t done since the World Cup in Val Di Sole at the start of June.
What an amazing feeling to be back on the bike, back where it all began, back on the dry dusty track that I love so well. 1 foot of dust and a mask for breathing. I felt so comfortable, so relaxed. I came into this race with so much knowledge. I spent the previous 2 months being injured walking the tracks and watching the last 2 World Cups. I felt like out of all my injuries I learnt the biggest lesson from the last one. I came in to the 2013 World Cup season with so much fear, and stress. I had a fear of crashing and injuries and I was stressed because I felt I needed to prove myself, I needed results so I could keep my name at the top of this sport. After breaking my collarbone yet again 2 months ago I took a step back, and asked questions about what is going on, why is this happening and what can I do to take the fear away but cope with the injuries. I feel like I learnt the most watching the 2 world cups that I would miss out on. I walked the tracks everyday for practice, I watched how people rode, I learned what was going on in their lives and where there at. Realising that racing downhill is more than 50% mental was the best knowledge I could’ve ever wanted. I do not regret my last injury because I learnt so much.
All week I had a big smile on my face, I had learnt to relax and finally I could use it in reality. I had taken away all pressure that I should feel and decided to enjoy riding as much as I love riding. When I can enjoy the bike I ride my best.
It was the morning of timed runs, the problem was that practice started at 715am with just a 30 min window. I decided to skip the practice and make the most of time to warm up for my timed run which would be just 1 hr later. As dad taught me the key is not to think to much before your run and decided at the right time what you will do. I rode that run so relaxed like it was another practice run, I pedalled here and there but it definitely wasn’t a race pace run. I got to the bottom among the first few riders so I waited for the top riders to come down with their times. Finally everyone had gotten to the bottom with their timed runs done and my time sat me in 2nd place for the day.
If there is anything that gets the butterflies moving its seating yourself in 2nd at the World Champs timed training. I spent the evening thinking about what had happened and decided not to worry about it and I reminded myself that the goal here has always been to relax, build confidence back on the bike and feel no pressure since the past few months haven’t gone so well with injuries and racing.
So I got up race day morning excited to practice and feeling ready to race. My practice went so well, I just love the speed that you carry on this track and the challenging sections through the top. I finished practice after 2 runs then I spent the rest of the day relaxing ready for my race run at 2:04pm.
It took a lot to control my nerves and not get all stiff. As soon as I’m nervous on the bike its a big fail. I warmed up on the trainer for what seemed like hours and finally it was time to go. I sat in the gate feeling really nervous so I didn’t think, the timer counted down and I waited for the feeling, finally my last words in the gate were ”yes I want to go for it “. I smashed out of the gate and down the track as fast as I could. I was sliding and drifting everywhere, the track was a lot drier than practice that morning. Onward I continued and made it to the pedal, it was so painful, for a moment I sat down and then I said “no stand up and pedal, we’re almost there”. I raced as hard as I could the rest of my run and came down with a time just in front of the girls already in the hot seat. From then I sat in the no #1 position for the next 12 riders until just 2 girls kicked me off and I ended up on the podium at World Champs in 3rd position.
I knew that I had trained and I knew that the track suited me, but after the year that I’ve had I was really happy with the result. It had been 6 years since I’ve raced a World Championship race and I am so happy. On top of my own result Michael took the silver medal in the mens final which meant we both stood on the podium. Just awesome. Thank you so much for your support no matter the ups and downs. To my fans, my friends, my family, the mechanics, thanks to Mick for always being there, my sponsors and can’t thank enough my team Hutchinson UR!!!
Surprisingly it’s not a goal of mine to continue being injured.
Where do I start? End of July 2012 broken Femur requiring surgery, broken left clavicle, bruised lung. November 2012 broken toe. March 2013 broken right clavicle requiring surgery. Early July 2013 broken left clavicle requiring surgery.
You tell me to stop being injured!! How? At what moment do I realize that in the next minute or so I will be carted off by first aid? At what speed am I too fast? At what level of technical will I fail? If I haven’t been riding careful this year what is careful?
If I asked those questions every time I ride my bike how will I ever go fast? Riding is not about thinking before every jump, techy section, corner, rock, tree! It’s about training so you have the ability to naturally react to what happens when your riding to fast to think.
When will I get the chance to fully recover physically and mentally from breaking the biggest bone in my body? Why do I feel like I am being judged so harshly when it hasn’t even been 12 months.
In July last year when I broke my leg I was told with that kind of injury it takes 12 – 18 months not to feel the pain anymore. It takes even longer to get over the mental challenge that is with you after a life experience like this.
Its not that I just had this injury, this broken bone. It’s the lead up, the experience at the time, and the life events after. In my life of racing I have done 1 x World Cup season, that was 2007 when I was 19. 2012 was my first season since then. I came back for the love of the sport. Of course I trained and was prepared, but I was back because I love it. To my delight I won the first race of the year, that is just insane.
Taking the win doesn’t mean that all of a sudden instead of 1 year I have 10 years of race experience and I should win every round. No it took me the season to learn the tracks, get used to the style, learn to ride on the edge more than I had before. I had to learn how to race again.
I was getting better and better every race, closer and closer to the top, finally at the 5th round in Wyndham I was back, I took a 2nd place and it gave me enough points to eventually secure 4th place overall. However it was round 6 that would change my life.
I had never been to hospital for an overnight stay, I’d broken one bone in my life and it wasn’t riding downhill. I had never experienced the full extent of the risk of doing what I love. Then it started, I was in a helicopter being flown to the hospital with a broken femur which required surgery, a broken clavicle and a bruised lung.
So there I was, unable to lay on my left because of a broken collarbone, unable to sleep on my right because of staples in two sections of my leg. I was bedridden! My iron level was so low that if I sat up I would black out. An experience I had never been close to experiencing in my life.
I was in hospital for 3 weeks before flying home and starting a recovery that would eventually take the rest of the year and continues even now.
It was the end of the year that I got on a downhill bike again, and from there I built strength and confidence slowly. My first race back was the National Championship in February, probably one of the hardest times in my life. When your fighting against your body to do something you love and to fear your worst nightmare it can be very mentally challenging.
I didn’t just give up, I didn’t quit, I accepted the feelings that I had but I pushed through them anyway. Yeah, I can quit, yes at that moment I had the fear, but wouldn’t anyone? It’s not about the fear that you feel but the strength that you have to move past it and start using the fear as a past feeling rather than a future battle. Of course the fear wasn’t gone then, and I still hold onto it now, but the difference is moving forward. There isn’t a day that you can choose to be over the fear, but everyday is a choice to feel it less today.
I’m writing this while recovering from my second collarbone surgery since March 2013. What some people seem to try to understand is ” ME “. How does anyone understand anyone. Yes, its ridiculous, I’ve been injured so much in just 11 months. It doesn’t mean I should up and quit, it doesn’t mean that because I’m injured again that I am done racing. No, why would it!
Yes, its hard, I feel like I’m being broken down every time I get injured. It’s the most challenging process I’ve ever had to go through.
This content has been re-produced with the permission of Tracey Hannah.