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Up close ... and nearly personal with Liam Killeen (Giant Factory Off-Road Team)
Next month to prove decisive after training, equipment changes
For Liam Killeen - two-time Olympian and British Cycling Podium Programme athlete, the next month will provide the answers to the goals he set at the start of the season, including returning to the World Cup podium.
As Olympic qualification continues, Killeen's ambition came to a premature end at round one of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa when he crashed with two laps remaining. According to the British champion, the fall cost more than just skin.
"Getting up from that crash to go on and finish 36th took a lot of mental energy. Before that I wasn't making the race but I was in contention for a top 15," he told British Cycling. Killeen's attention now turns to round two of the World Cup in Houffalize, Belgium, this weekend - a race for which he says he is still trying to regain physical shape.
"I am trying to forget South Africa and start again. It's not the end of the world. At Houffalize I have to make the best of the day and try and get off to a pretty rapid start. I know from training sessions that I feel in good shape, but you have to nail the race results to know where you are exactly; we've only done one World Cup, so I think next month should give the answers."
Killeen will hope that his revised training regime started this winter - which reflects the changes to the demands of Olympic cross country - will bear fruit in Houffalize, along with a revision in his equipment.
"I can feel the difference from my change in training, I've not fully adapted but I'm certainly headed in the right direction. I think there is more to work on, but I know what I have to do and I will keep chipping away. I've also switched to riding a 29er, and I think I will stay on it all year. It is the bike I've ridden since the end of last season, and I feel comfortable on it. I think it is good to keep it simple and just travel with one bike, instead of travel to races with multiple bike choices which gives you something else to worry about.
"The main advantage of the 29er is that I feel faster; once the course opens up the bike seems to roll and if you average a lap out you may have a few sections where you are slower, the odd dead corner, but if you average it out, it's better. Every rider is different and right now there are a lot of distractions, but you have to be happy with your equipment, it is the rider's preferred choice."