As Australia counts down to host the second round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup series this April, last year's under 23 cross country World Cup series winner Rebecca Henderson (Trek Factory Racing) is preparing for a challenging debut in the international elite ranks.
Henderson, who in 2013 claimed two World Cup victories before taking out the overall series has had a smooth transition so far with the 22-year-old claiming the Australian cross country national title over the weekend, adding to her victory in Australia's national series.
"Last year there were a few things I wanted to tick off the list before I left the under 23 category," said Henderson.
"Obviously my first year in the elite ranks is going to be really tough, and it will be interesting to see where I fit in, [but] I've been racing in elite in just about everything except for the World Cups for the last few years anyway. But the World Cups are the toughest races and the races that have the most depth."
Adding to the challenges of the elite field is the difficult Cairns course, which Henderson tested in late February.
"The course is going to be one of the toughest of the year, it's technically challenging, but it's also going to be really physically demanding. There is so much climbing and other factors like the humidity and heat will be something we'll all have to battle."
Henderson's busy early season schedule continues in March with the Oceania Championships in New Zealand this weekend before traveling to America to meet up with her Trek Factory teammates ahead of the World Cup opener in South Africa on April 10.
"I'll be flying straight from South Africa to Cairns," said Henderson. "This year the World Cups are really spread across the world with one in Canada, America, Africa, France and one in Australia, so the Europeans will be travelling a lot as well.
"For me, my two big goals are the Cairns World Cup and the Commonwealth Games, I'll definitely be prepared and will do anything possible to be climbing well in Cairns," Henderson said.
Also expected to compete in Cairns will be Henderson's Trek Factory teammates, Emily Batty, who will be looking to improve on her third place in the 2013 Val Di Sole Italian World Cup, and Great Britain's Annie Last.
Henderson will race the elite women's cross country race in Cairns on Sunday, April 27.