• Garry Millburn carves a trail through the Belgium mud (Australia) (Rob Jones)Source: Rob Jones
The 2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Zolder, Belgium will be remembered most for motorised cheating but lost in the media fog were the strong performances by Australian riders.
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Cycling Central
4 Feb 2016 - 9:50 AM  UPDATED 4 Feb 2016 - 10:11 AM

All arrived at Zolder on a wing and a prayer, with the majority nailing all of their key performance indicators marking the event as the best ever for riders of this budding sport.

The common theme for the Australians at Zolder is sacrifice, self funding and the support of much needed sponsors in it for the love more than the return on investment.

But return was what they got with top-50 performances across the board, and more importantly, finishing on the same lap as their hardened and well supported European competitors.

Among the Australian representatives was Garry Millburn, a pioneer of the sport in this country, and one who also rode to his best ever result in the Belgian mud, finishing 38th, just behind countryman Chris Jongewaard in 36th.

Millburn talked to Cycling Central in the days after Zolder.

Cycling Central: How do you feel about your personal performance at Zolder? Did the decision to commit fully pay off?

Garry Millburn: I am very happy with how I rode. My goal was top-40 and lead lap and I achieved both. The race itself played out how I expected and there was only one move I tried to go with but just wasn't strong enough on the day.

Last year I said to my bosses that I wanted to take eight months off work to live the dream, so you could say my preparations were a little different to the 2015 World Champs.

My wife and I kicked off dream living with BC Bike Race in July (Canada), then some training in Colorado (USA)  with my coach Mark Legg before returning to Australia for our National Championships.

I was pleased to come away with a strong ride and most importantly some UCI points. The next day it was straight back to Colorado to train and prepare for a limited US season. Over the US season I saw improved results to the point where I was a genuine top-10 contender at Louisville.

In November we switched continents to Europe and the heartland of Cyclo-cross. I rode a program incorporating most of the big races, as well as some smaller ones. In the end I believe I had a really good preparation period for Worlds and happy with what we have achieved over the last eight months.

The course itself is great, a number of technical features and strong pedalling sections. I wouldn't say that it particularly plays to my strengths but the weekend rain certainly helped.

CC: You've been at the forefront of Cyclo-cross in Australia for a long time, so well placed to give us your observations about the overall performance of the team as a whole? Encouraging? Work to do?

GM: The team did well considering it was most riders first time in Europe racing cross. Encouraging? Yes. Work to do? Absolutely. It's certainly something you need to commit to as it’s a whole new level of performance that's required. The courses are harder, the competition is deeper and living and training ain't no Australian summer.

I think the until you experience it here then it's all hearsay. There's so much you need to organise, from bikes and equipment to race day mechanics and support, campers and a place to live that is adequate to maintain all your gear during the week. I think many underestimated the demands both personally and mechanically.

CC: What do you think is needed now to get a rider into the top-20 and beyond?

GM: I think if we are realistic about our expectations we first need to aim for top 30 and then top 20. By my rough calculations to achieve top 30, I needed to be 3.8 per cent better and top 20, 6.1 percent better. We have certainly learnt a lot on this eight-month trip and hopefully this can make up some of the deficit with another year of training.

I think in Australia we also need our courses to help foster the growth of our athletes and better prepare us for the international circuit. I believe ultimately we need to seek private land to build courses that are challenging and will not get shut down due to inclement weather, that's what Cyclo-cross is. Overall Cyclo-cross is growing in Australia and I believe we can achieve top-20 in the years to come.

CC: Lastly, any words on the motorised bike thing? Or are you just left speechless?

GM: It's just ridiculous. I come from a background where hard work and persistence is what achieves goals. To try and win in that fashion is not only cheating the sport but herself. How could one be proud to achieve a goal knowing it wasn't all them?