This post has been supplied by Australian XCM Champs representative Sarah Riley, tracking her journey from race supporter, to international mountain biker. You can follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahriley80
The day after the biggest race of my life I am still trying to process the enormity of what I achieved. To finish 46th at a Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships doesn’t seem to be a phenomenal result but to think how it all started makes it seem so unbelievable! After many years of standing in feed zones all over Australia supporting Murray Spink as he raced at the top of his game, representing Australia at World Cups, World Championships and in 2009 becoming National Marathon Champion. Until now I would definitely count his National Title as my greatest MTB result with everything we both put into achieving it! To see his sacrifice,dedication and focus to the sport of mountain biking I really became inspired.
After Murray semi retired I started to miss the family of mountain biking and in 2013 I decided to give Marathon Mountain Biking a go. After my first marathon Mtb race the Otway Odyssey 2013 and finishing 5th I decided to race the National Marathon Championships 2013. To finish 3rd in my first ever nationals, even after mechanicals, got me even more motivated to succeed. I don’t think either of us thought at that stage I would race for Australia. When I saw the opportunity in 2014 to compete in the Cairn’s world cup I swapped to XCO and racing the World Cup was the best experience of my life and so the seed was planted.
At MTB races I had often been referred to as Murray’s shadow, and although this was meant in an endearing way, I guess my desire to achieve came from a need for me to prove that I could stand alone in the sport of MTB.
After a broken leg in 2014, diagnosed 6 weeks after my crash at the XCM Nationals and having raced the Wombat 100, Atherton marathon and Cairn’s World Cup, the fire in my belly was worse than ever!
With a long XCO season and a bit of a back injury at the start of the XCM season the idea of racing the XCM World Champs this year seemed a bit far fetched and unachievable. I still put in my expression of interest with MTBA as it was always burning in the back of my mind. I still felt I hadn’t laid it all out of the season I had. After a short prep for National XCM champs and not an outstanding result, I was even more convinced that I wouldn’t be heading to Italy. When I revived the selection to race and the opportunity to travel with Eliza Kwan arose it appeared all the stars we aligning! How could I pass up this opportunity to race XCM World Championships?! So began a 3 week block of training after two weeks of being sick after XCM nationals. Not ideal time to prep but Murray, who is used to being supported, turned into the greatest support person! He mapped out climbs in the Dandenong Rangers replicating those I would experience in the Worlds Course and he came out riding with me to help with my technical climbing. Murray became super coach!
Today reflecting on the experience I had racing I know the stars did in fact align. That must be something that only occurs very rarely and perhaps usually reserved for National and World titles, but for me it was the ability to race and finish 46th at the XCM World Championships in 2015. Today my realisation is that I wasn’t really trying to prove to anyone that I needed to step out of the shadow of greatness but my need to prove it to myself!