Australian Mountain Bike - - Between The Tape - WORDS: SE­BAS­TIAN JAYNE PHOTO: MIKE BLEWITT

Bike rac­ing be­comes a ques­tion of per­se­ver­ance more often than not. A case of chip­ping away at the stone to cre­ate the statue. The metaphors of in­cre­men­tal progress no mat­ter how small are ev­ery­where and for good rea­son. They work. Though some­times the hur­dles that push back against progress can start com­ing too quickly or are just that lit­tle bit too high to jump. Per­se­ver­ance, chip­ping away, just mov­ing for­ward can be the best way to do just that, move for­ward. Re­cently in high per­for­mance moun­tain bik­ing there have been some tough times re­gard­ing se­lec­tions for ma­jor events. It can be ex­haust­ing as an ath­lete try­ing to move for­ward while all these seem­ingly po­lit­i­cal bat­tles oc­cur around you. Train­ing loads, work com­mit­ments and fam­ily time need to be jug­gled while string­ing to­gether funds to make it around Aus­tralia dur­ing the sum­mer sea­son and po­ten­tially overseas for the World Cup sea­son. Fo­cus­ing on the right goals doesn’t leave a whole lot of time or en­ergy to ‘fight’ things out of your con­trol like pol­i­tics. The is­sues of se­lec­tion poli­cies or un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions and po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions above an ath­letes’ head aren’t just iso­lated to moun­tain bik­ing in Aus­tralia. Imag­ine be­ing Jenny Rissveds, the cur­rent Olympic XCO cham­pion, right now. In Fe­bru­ary this year, she an­nounced she is tak­ing a break from rac­ing to re­cover from de­pres­sion. A de­ci­sion and con­se­quence that doesn’t seem all that sur­pris­ing when you look at her tu­mul­tuous 2017 sea­son that saw her race only a few times. Pri­vately, the death of two fam­ily mem­bers took an un­for­tu­nate toll though this was ex­ac­er­bated by the pub­lic feud re­gard­ing con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions placed on her by the Swedish cy­cling fed­er­a­tion dur­ing the lead up to the World Cham­pi­onships in Cairns. The fed­er­a­tion re­quired its ath­letes to use a cer­tain brand of hel­met if they were to rep­re­sent Swe­den at the World and Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships. This would have been a slip­pery slope for the cross-coun­try scene as a whole if it had been ac­cepted by Jenny and her trade team. It may have started with a hel­met but could quickly lead to ath­letes be­ing re­quired to use a spe­cific brand of bike if they wish to rep­re­sent their na­tion. Not great for a spon­sored ath­lete or team in a largely in­dus­try sup­ported dis­ci­pline. As it even­tu­ated, a com­pro­mise couldn’t be found and Jenny, the Olympic cham­pion, didn’t make it to the 2017 World Cham­pi­onships in Cairns. This was a ter­ri­ble out­come for the Swedish fed­er­a­tion, Jenny’s trade team and the fans at the World Cham­pi­onships not to men­tion Jenny as well. All be­cause spon­sor­ship dol­lars took

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