Caroline Buchanan won the downhill at Mount Buller on Sunday. Photo: Rob Lindblade
Caroline Buchanan showed she still has mountain biking skills after four years away from the discipline, winning the elite women's downhill in the opening round of the mountain bike national series at Mount Buller on Sunday.
Buchanan returned to mountain biking from BMX to "refocus" and "freshen up" after a hectic last year, which had her finish as the world No.1 BMX racer and time trial world champion, but also featured Olympic heartbreak when she missed out on a medal.
The win at Mount Buller came as a surprise to the 22-year-old; just a week ago she was participating in a commercial downhill biking clinic, relearning the fundamentals to help her prepare for her new challenge of qualifying for the MTB World Championships.
"I've only just gotten back on the downhill bike in the last couple of months on a new ride," she said.
"I did a camp up here last weekend where … I just got coached and trained how to corner again, and I completely went back to basics.
"I've gone from coming off a huge high of the Olympics … [to] learning how to ride a different bike again, starting at the bottom with no ranking and no points and building back up, so [it was] good to come out in the first national race of the year and win it."
Buchanan was seeded third in the final on the basis of her first run, and was aiming to go four seconds faster in the final to improve her placing, but went 10 seconds faster to win it.
She beat two-time Canadian national champion and World Championships bronze medallist Claire Buchar by 0.72 seconds. Top seed Lisa Mathison dropped back to third.
"I was hoping for a top three, so it was definitely a surprise to see where I'm at," Buchanan said.
"There were some good names here … so it's a good sort of benchmark to see where I'm at and what I've got to do to qualify for worlds this year."
Buchanan said she still had some "minor adjustments" to make for another national series event before the national championships were held in Canberra at Stromlo Forest Park from February 20.
"It was a very technical track here at Buller, it was demanding on the body and challenging physically and also mentally," she said.
"Next stop we go to Thredbo and that track's a little bit longer, not so rocky and tight and challenging, so a little bit more my style, and then [there's] the nationals."