By Steve Medcroft
The Australian National Mountain Bike Team drew attention to itself this past weekend in Colorado’s State MTB Championships. Team members hogged the podiums across the board. Emma Colson (Topbike Tours - Giant) won the pro women’s race with Niki Fisher (Trek) close behind in second, Erica Oldfield (QLD academy of Sport) won the junior women’s race and junior men Lachlan Norris (Cannondale/Maxxis), Andrew Arthur (Clarence Street Cyclery) and Gary Millburn (Cannondale/Maxxis) swept their event.
Quietly training for the Livigno, Italy World Championships (August 28 to September 4, 2005) in the U.S., the Australians were at an altitude camp in Silverthorne, Colorado (population 5,000). “We’ve got a group of twelve athletes and five staff here,” explains Colson, Australia’s current national cross-country champion.
The camp is partly funded by the Australian Institute of Sport and organized by National Team Coach Damien Grundy. “We’ve been here about two and a half weeks,” says Colson. “(Coach Grundy) put the trip and training camp together. He knows a lot of the trails around here and has been giving us very specific workouts, specific efforts.”
Silverthorne sits at 8,751 feet. “We’re trying to acclimatize since worlds is at altitude (Livigno sits at 5,980 feet),” Colson says. “The highest mountain in the whole of Australia is Mt Kosciuszko – (2,228 meters or 7,300 feet). And you can’t even ride to the top of it.”
Colson says she and the other athletes felt the effects of altitude their first day in Silverthorne. “We all had trouble breathing, headaches. We brought a physiologist with us and did lactate tests and on the first day; we were sky high.”
It took a while for Colson to feel comfortable. “I’ve done a lot of riding in Europe and ridden up to altitude but some of the passes I’ve ridden here (in Colorado) are higher than I’ve ever lived before. It’s a weird feeling: your heart and lungs give out before your legs do - like you can never use all the strength in your legs.”
One week after arriving in Silverthorne, Colson says that everyone in the group is acclimatized. “The tests show it, as do the results in the Colorado races. And I’m feeling good, feeling lean.” The group heads to West Virginia on Wednesday then will transfer to Milan two days after racing the NORBA at Snowshoe. “The key from here,” says Colson, “is to stay healthy, cope with the travel and not eat too much.”