As the year comes to a close, Kath Bicknell thinks back on what has inspired her most.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

Review type articles are filling up the internet, providing expert commentaries on the year that was and the one that will follow. Many reflect back on doping scandals (oh, Lance), impacts of changes in the International Cycling Union (c'mon Cookson), and the results from athletes who continue to perform amazing feats at the top of the sport.

Road cycling still dominates the media in Australia, but as a mountain biker, 2013 has given us a lot to be excited about too.

Racing at the top level certainly inspires. On a broad level, it does a lot to lift the profile and accessibility of our sport. One a personal one, it makes me want to build my skills, race my mates up a few extra hills and plan goals and adventures of my own.

But if I think back to the race that inspired me the most this year, it happened only a short drive from home.

Early in December I drove out to the Yellowmundee race track, near Springwood in the Blue Mountains. It was time for the Western Sydney Mountain Bike Club Championships.

A good club championships bring a crowd across a variety of categories making for a fun, fast and social day out. Shop kit dominated the lycra people chose to wear, showing the local scene is alive, healthy and well.

On my final lap of the familiar track, Brian 'Big Dog' Price overtook me on the early fire road climb. For as long as we've both been racing, Dogs almost always overtakes me at the same point, time wise, in a race. His four laps is my three.

With only two riders in my own race, it's nice to have a benchmark to see how fast racing can be. When Doggy raced the World Cup at Stromlo Forest Park in 2008 he finished 33rd, 18 minutes back in the elite men's field.

Finishing on the same lap as the elite men's winner is impressive. His lap times were on par with the speed of the Elite Women's winner, and two-time world champion, Irina Kalentieva. No one ever seems to notice facts like these.

"So that's what racing looks like," I thought as Dogs road off. Focused. Strong. Motivated. Out of the saddle. Deliberate. Fast. Irina speed.

Big Dog won the club champs (again). He also helped to set up the track for people to race on, helps to maintain it on track work days, has taken on the role as club president, handed out prizes during presentations, then got on his bike to bring all the bunting back in once everyone had gone home.

His wife, Erica, is just as instrumental in helping the club run these events. She'd run the timing and registration along with a crew of other regular volunteers, before going home to prepare for a busy week at work.

2013 has certainly been a big year for Australian mountain biking as far as spotlight events go. I'm as excited about these things as any keen mountain biker. But as the year comes to a close, I realise that the further I get involved in the sport, it's the experiences had in local communities that inspire me most.

Generous teams of Big Dogs and Ericas make each riding community passionate and unique. Without our clubs, and the volunteers who run them, the experiences we have through cycling would be very different indeed.