• Australia's Garry Millburn will fly the flag at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Zolder, Belgium. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
This weekend the 2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships are being held in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium and Garry Millburn will again represent Australia in the elite men's field.
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Cycling Central
31 Jan 2016 - 8:13 AM  UPDATED 31 Jan 2016 - 8:14 AM

Cycling Central: CX is a tough discipline, hard on the body (even without crashes and tangles) and requires a fairly specific physiology, what attracted you to it and what do you most enjoy about it?

Garry Millburn: Cyclo-cross has always appealed to me but in Australia it wasn't around in my early career as a junior. In a comeback from my big crash in 2011 Cyclo-cross was kicking off and it seemed like a great time to get involved. It is a sport where the races are painful but after one hour of racing you finish and it almost seems enjoyable. It's you and your machine vs the terrain and the other competitors. It's not just power that wins the race but a blend of power, finesse and control.

CC: The world cups are a whole different level to Aussie or US races, describe why it's different and how the intense it is?

GM: The terrain here is remarkably different to the dry and often dusty races we see in Australia. Here (Europe) the courses use the natural features and slopes to create run-up's and often scary descents. Weather is cold, the courses are muddy and the fields often stacked 60-70 deep. Coming from Australia you could almost think that it's a different sport.

CC: You've been overseas racing since September, kicking off with ‘Cross Vegas in the US, then moving to Europe. How’s this long preparation period worked for you?

GM: Fiona and I have been lucky this year to spend so much time away. We have raced in the USA and Europe in a bid to learn more about the sport and what I need to do to improve. It has been great spending so much time on the bike and working with my coach Mark Legg. This experience has paid dividends this season and I have certainly improved on my results from the previous year leading in to the world championships.

CC: Belgium's possibly not the funnest place to be, in winter, for a couple of months ('cept race day). What's the good and the bad of the "cross life”?

GM: I think you need to accept it for what it's going to be. It's going to be cold, it's going to be grey, it's going to be wet and it's definitely going to be muddy. I think you need to set realistic expectations for yourself and set about achieving 'small wins'. There is also plenty of good. This year we stayed with a couple of Canadians in a house which made for camaraderie and great times. We have also trained with many of the cross superstars and regularly with Mark and Katie. And let's not forget about some of the most generous Belgium folks you meet along the way. It's refreshing to know that we are all fighting the same battle and if you need a little help all you have to do is ask.

CC: The courses you've raced on this season have varied greatly, which has been the most difficult in terms of skills and which most difficult on the legs?

GM: The two most memorable races in terms of my legs and lungs burning were back to back races. On Saturday we raced on the sand at Mol. The sand sucked your legs of all the power you had and just when it was gone you better be ready to run. I feel like my heart rate was through the roof the whole time whether it be riding or running or cornering on some technical terrain. On the Sunday we travelled to Spa where there is an incredibly steep run up. As you climbed with the bike on the shoulder, you could reach out in front of you and touch the slope, it was steep! The course also involved filthy deep mud and some running across flat mud sections because it was too thick to power on through. The lap finished off with a 15 per cent climb to really finish off the legs. Suffice to say I slept well that Sunday night.

CC: When you see a rider like Sven Nys still at the pointy end at 38, do they inspire you to continue racing until you basically no longer can or have you set yourself a time period?

GM: Sven is certainly a great athlete and to do what he does at 38 is phenomenal. I will continue to ride and race while I still enjoy it and can afford it. Who knows where I'll be at 38 but I like to take opportunities that arise and fit with our game plan.

CC: What's your goal for World Champs?

GM: I have a number that I want to achieve, it's better than last year and that's all I'll say. Hopefully come Sunday at 4pm I can achieve this.

CC: You and your partner Fiona look like you've been living the (mud encrusted) dream, would you do it again?

GM: Fiona and I have had a great time, we have met some wonderful people and enjoyed the racing along the way. I definitely feel like I've got more in me and can achieve better results in the future. We have learned so much in our last seven months away and hopefully I can bring this back to the national series. After that we'll see where life takes us. We would definitely do it again but as for the immediate future it's back to the balancing act of working, training and planning for future success.