Being selected to represent your country means different things to different people, but one thing is for sure - everyone who went to Canberra to watch or participate in the 2009 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships at Stromlo, Canberra, would have walked away smiling.
The event was a great success with the capital's weather holding out with windy, but sunny conditions every day. The only downside was the long and arduous drive from Melbourne towing the team caravan up the Hume freeway (10 hours to be exact) along with my wife and a very well-behaved 14-week-old baby.
We left very early on the Wednesday morning (4:00 am) and got to Canberra late afternoon where we unpacked and set up the Torq area. We were there to support our riders while spreading the Torq philosophy on our products, nutrition and training to all those passing through the expo area with some yummy tastings along the way.
The racing was unbelievable and a great achievement, irrespective of results. Everyone who competed had shown such dedication and commitment to reaching the highest level of competition thanks to some help from their coaches, national programs, domestic teams and sponsors.
Here is a brief insight into what some of our Torq team's riders experienced.
Brenton Jones (Junior man)
It was an amazing experience. Firstly, to represent your country, sponsors and family on your own doorstep is something in itself, but combining all these things into a World Championships was truly awesome. A highlight was when we were given our (Australian) team tracksuit and team kit, which made me feel very proud and important.
Cal Britten (Under 23 man)
It's something that most elite athletes aspire to but never achieve; a world championship in front of a home crowd! Thankfully the fantastic Aussie crowd kept me going until the end, and I managed to pull my best result of the season out of the bag- 19th, Making it the highlight of my year! Thanks to all the Aussies who came out and made the week so fantastic for us!
Jo Wall (Elite woman)
What a trip it's been! My worlds campaign started in the darkest part of winter - waking up to the alarm clock at 5.30 am every other day, forcing myself to summon up the energy and motivation for those early mornings ergo sessions.
Race day was spectacular, it was so nice to see familiar faces and hear encouragement from close friends on the start line. Throughout the race, the supporters on course were inspiring. I didn't really see much as I was quite focused on the track but the support being hurled from the sidelines was amazing, especially the technical sections.
It was a great lift and made the pain just that little bit more bearable. I ticked off my first world championship, and although I don't expect to race another one on home turf, I do hope to put in an appearance in many others overseas.
Katherine O'Shea (Elite woman)
Qualifying for the world championships was particularly special for me. Not only was it a major season goal, but it was also a "home" championship with a fanatical crowd to support me and all the other Aussies.
Like anyone who lined up on the grid with me, I had big expectations of myself to perform. This was also my first worlds, the first time I had ever pulled on the Australian colors. It was a special day.
My ability to ride all the technical sections brought a smile to my face along with every deafening cheer from the crowds. The noise and atmosphere helped wipe away the pain in my legs and lungs. While on paper it wasn't my best result, the joy of crossing the finish line in front of the massive crowd was an awesome experience and made me very proud to be representing Australia for the first time.
Dan McConnell (Elite man)
What a fantastic day! Hit them hard hit them early (Torq team motto) - certainly not the best race tactics at world level but that's the situation I found myself in. Hitting the first piece of singletrack, the noise of the chanting crowds spurred me on despite the pain in my legs. Even though I went out slightly too hard, it was an awesome experience having (former World Champion Julien) Absalon on my wheel. Something I won't forget in a hurry!
For those of you that went to Canberra this year, I'm sure you had a great week like we did!
Thanks for reading and thanks to all the supporters who made the trek.
Torq Team Manager