Having claimed a dramatic UCI Mountain Bike World Championship title at the Cascades MTB Park in 2013, French rider Julie Bresset is hoping she can replicate that form in the elite women's cross country at the first leg of the 2014 UCI World Cup on April 11 to 13 at the same venue where she won her rainbow striped jersey some seven months ago.
Having held off a charge from Polish rider Maja Wloszczowska to claim the sought-after world championship title in 2013, Bresset is comfortable with the layout of the course in Pietermaritzburg and wants to get herself off to a solid start with a lengthy season ahead.
"I think the Cascades course is really nice," the BH Suntour KMC team rider said. "I enjoy the tracks and the technical sections of the course. The layout of the course is very different from what I am used to, which means it is always interesting but it does suit my style of riding!"
The tough conditions in Europe over the winter have meant that Bresset has not been as active as she would have liked but still feels that she is close to fully fit and is not setting her sights too high for the opening event of the new season.
"It has been a good off season and the weather at home has not been good for riding but I did go to Spain for a training camp which was great.
"I am not fully fit at the moment but I always work my way into the season slowly so I just want to start this season well and with this event so early I just want to get myself into the top five," said a relaxed Bresset.
Having a World Cup event so far from the cycling hub of the world means that the travel so quite foreign to a lot of the riders and having to endure such a long journey is quite telling on them but having now become a regular on the World Cup roster, the trip to Pietermaritzburg is not as taxing as it used to be.
"The travel is quite long for us coming from Europe and the event is really different to what we are used to back home at the other World Cup legs, but the event is always well organised and the track is great so it is all worth it," Bresset said.
Thorough preparation and homework for events is important in succeeding but having such a unique challenge and being unable to replicate it in Europe means that it is fairly difficult for riders to prepare specifically for the Cascades MTB Park layout.
"I don't prepare any differently for Pietermaritzburg as I would for any other World Cup leg. Preparing specifically is quite difficult because it is so different, but having raced there a few times now I think I have a good enough idea of what to expect.
"Every race in the World Cup is really important for us so starting well is always important but I think that a good finish is needed in order for you to get a good number for the following season," the 2012 Olympic gold medallist said.