Rio heat the fuel for Aussie mountain bike fire
Published 20 August 2016 (AEDT)
MOUNTAIN BIKE: With soaring temperatures predicted for Saturday’s Olympic women’s cross country race, Rebecca Henderson believes being an Aussie will be to her advantage when she takes to the start line in Brazil.
The women’s race is scheduled to begin in the midday heat with temperatures of 31-plus forecast, while the men look like they might get a reprieve with rain and wind possible for their race on Sunday.
And with the technically challenging 4.85km loop course a mix of climbing, steep descents and hazards providing little protection from the elements, it will certainly push the cyclists to their limit.
Henderson will line up in a field of 30 women – smaller than most World Championship or World Cup fields - and should temperatures soar, she will be most prepared.
“The heat has been a little bit of a talking point. Yesterday in training it was super-hot and when we were here in October it was pushing 50 degrees,” she explained.
“But we know what it is like in super-hot weather, we are Aussies, we know how to deal with the hot conditions.
“So much of racing in the heat is to do with the preparation, staying hydrated, staying cool, doing all those little things.”
Henderson enters the Games with strong Olympic year form, with a third at the opening World Cup of the season in Cairns after winning the national series and Oceania championships.
In Rio, she has highlighted a good start as her major goal come Saturday.
“I have a really good year this year. It has been consistent, it started off quite well with my best result,” said Henderson of her maiden elite World Cup podium appearance.
“My form has been good but I have been struggling to reach the absolute peak of my ability.
“Yes my results have been solid but haven’t quite reflected the form that I actually am in.
“In the last couple of World Cups, I have had top 10 and just outside the top 10.”
Leading into the Games, Henderson has been focusing on her start, which is considered a crucial element in the sport as the narrow tracks make it hard to pass riders along the course to improve race positioning.
“My times are reflecting results more near the top five, but I am having to pass a lot of traffic and losing a lot of time in that first lap or two it is impossible to make that up,” she explained.
“I have been working on my starts a lot the past couple of weeks. This one suits me a lot better, it will be a little more fast paced rather than straight into the big climb.
“Also the field is a little bit smaller so at worst case scenario I can slip back into 30th, which isn’t the end of the word.
“I’ll be trying to get the best start as possible but also staying composed and working through the race.”
Henderson will battle the likes of reigning world champion Annika Langvad (DEN), plus Lea Davison (USA), Emily Batty (CAN), 2015 world champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot (FRA) and 2008 gold medallist Sabine Spitz (GER), considered the favourites in the women's race.
“The women’s race is super open, anyone in the top five to 10 could win a medal in the race. Judging by the last World Cups there are so many in good form,” she said.
“So much of it is going to be who responds to the different atmosphere, racing in the Olympics, who has put too much pressure on themselves and who lifts with that added pressure.
“It is anyone’s race I think.”