Former world junior downhill champion Cameron Cole, of Christchurch, New Zealand, will begin his 2010 World Cup campaign in downhill racing this weekend at Maribor, Slovenia.
Ranked 22nd in the UCI world rankings, Cole is again backed by the Maxxis-Rocky Mountain team and the 22-year-old is excited by his preparation for the season.
"It's a good team and this year everything has been sorted out – I am really happy with the bikes and products I'll be riding with," Cole said.
Cole is one of the youngest riders to be running in the world's top 20 in downhill racing's elite World Cup series and his aim to finish top 10 in each of the World Cups in 2010 is tempered with his aim to develop as a rider this season.
"I really want to try to learn how to ride better in Europe – I don't always get my best results there and so I'd like to change that and develop as a rider," he said.
His first step into turning European World Cup courses into his strength, will come at the opening round in Slovenia at the weekend.
"I'm really looking forward to Maribor – it's quite similar to tracks I have been riding in New Zealand. I quite like the races in Europe where it rains a lot and those courses are also the ones I want to develop into a strength of mine. I am also really looking forward to the World Championships at Mont-Sainte-Anne – that will be an awesome race and will have a great atmosphere."
The toughest race on the World Cup circuit this season is at Val di Sole in Italy. The course is steep, rough and unforgiving. Everyone crashes at Val di Sole, but the rider who crashes least here usually wins.
"I didn't ride so well at Val di Sole last time, but I had a few things going on at that time and I have sorted those out now so should be able to hold it together better this year. I'm not putting too much pressure on myself for that one this year," Cole admitted.
Cole has spent his off-season working on specific parts of his performance and preparation including his diet and managing his travel.
"I have focused on keeping my diet in check – to keep eating really well and to try not to get sick on planes like I did last year. I perhaps didn't manage my travel very well last year and so I learnt a lot – I hadn't really travelled that much in a year before."
He has also turned to psyche training to help prepare him mentally for success and believes this gives him a more robust stance going into the season.
"Downhill is such a mental thing – maybe 80% of a race – so if you don't have that psychological side zoned in you can do all the training you want without getting results. Last year I was superfit and this year I am fitter and stronger, but mentally I feel much further ahead. If you want to be the top in your sport it's such an important part," he explained.
Putting the fun back into his racing is also a priority for Cole who said that his last season sometimes felt like "too much of a job".
"When you're a kid it's the fun that motivates you to go out to ride and train and go to races – my strategy is to get back to that and it has worked pretty well so far this year. Last year it became too much of a job and I put a lot of pressure on myself – maybe too much. I just want to enjoy it and let it fall into place," he offered.
Along with BMX and his new love – a KX250F motocross bike – Cole has spent some of his off-season trailriding with his partner ex-World Cup downhill racer Amy Laird. Laird has now moved into racing cross-country and Super D, but does this mean she can beat Cole to the top of the hills?
"On a good day I could probably beat her, but then she has good days and will beat me – in fact, since she has been training for cross-country she'd probably beat me most of the time," he laughs.
Cole grew up in Taranaki, moved to Hamilton to attend St Paul's Collegiate and then moved to Christchurch to "make the most of the downhill opportunities" there.
Cole is one of the new generation of World Cup downhill athletes and represents New Zealand on the world downhill mountain biking stage along with Justin Leov, of Dunedin, Sam Blenkinsop, of Wanganui, and Nathan Rankin, of Levin.