It was an Australian medal rush on the final day at the 2013 UCI MTB and Trials World Championships in South Africa, with Paul Van Der Ploeg providing the golden highlight of the final day of competition.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

One gold, two silver and four bronze is a promising result for a future where Cairns will be hosting two World Cups (2014, 2016) and a World Championship (2017).

Van Der Ploeg's gold gave Australia a seventh overall on the medal table which I think is a solid representation of where we stand globally.

There is a bit of work to do to improve, but hopefully Cycling Australia and Mountain Bike Australia can get it together to fund and support the dirt disciplines in a way that matches and builds on the success in South Africa. It's certainly a solid platform to work from.

The Gravity disciplines always produce for Australia, proven by the success of junior women Danielle Beecroft and Tegan Molloy, plus seniors Jared Graves and the brother sister combo of Mick and Tracey Hannah.

Cross Country depth remains a weak point but the performances of Rebecca Henderson and Daniel McConnell throughout the season proves the talent, properly supported, is there.

Pre-event expectations were that Henderson would medal in her Under-23 race while McConnell could return a top-ten performance. Heavy crashes in training (McConnell's involving a troop of Monkeys) put paid to that, but both should rebound for the final World Cup in Norway.

Given past performances this season we may have a World Cup Champion in Henderson and a podium place overall with McConnell, something we could not have imagined at the beginning of the year.

A bronze by Janine Jungfels in the Observed Trials provided added spice in a unique discipline. Given proper travelling support we can expect bigger things from her.

But back to the multi-faceted Van Der Ploeg (road, cyclocross and MTB), who was always a chance to medal at the world championships eliminator after a semi-final finish in 2012.

The short, fast-paced and technical event is a chancy one with all riders only a moment away from disaster. Van Der Ploeg eased his way into the semi-finals but was a completely different rider from that point on.

Using his size and power he overwhelmed his opposition after taking a bullish inside line into the first corner from where he was never headed.
It was an audacious performance by the Australian which lit up the Twittersphere and by all accounts it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, known for a personality which matches his physique.

"I found a sneaky inside line in the semi finals and I was like, well it worked once it could hopefully work again," said Van Der Ploeg.

"I went from second or third into first and then it was just about riding smooth and trying to keep my cool, but I was pooing my pants most of the lap actually."

Throw out the media management guide, Van Der Ploeg's in town.

Australia has yet another cycling world champion to crow about, albeit one in an event in its relative infancy and under a cloud as a continuing World Cup discipline. It missed the cut as an Olympic event in 2016 but is still under consideration for the 2020 games. The Eliminator is a broadcasters dream and I hope it sticks around.

Van Der Ploeg now deserves the chance to ride an entire season in the rainbow stripes ahead of a possible Olympic opportunity, so here's hoping Cycling Australia throws a bit of coin his way to do just that.