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Downhill success an uphill battle

Caroline Buchanan in preparation for the national mountain bike championships at Mount Stromlo this week. Click for more photos

Caroline Buchanan

Caroline Buchanan trains at the Mount Stromlo mountain bike track Photo: Jay Cronan

The last time Caroline Buchanan roared down Mount Stromlo she burst into tears in front of more than 10,000 fans and secured international glory. Three years on and the crowd will be smaller, but the race just as significant as the Olympian continues her bid to make an impact on the mountain bike downhill scene.

The national mountain bike championships begin at Mount Stromlo on Wednesday with Australia's best riders converging on the capital. For Buchanan, it's a chance to return to the venue of one of her greatest triumphs.

As a teenager, the former Erindale College student claimed the four cross world title on her home track and couldn't contain her emotions.

Now older, wiser and with BMX Olympic Games experience under her belt, the 22-year-old is hoping her homecoming yields more success. Buchanan made the switch from BMX to downhill racing at the start of the year to search for a new challenge as she begins focusing on the 2016 Olympics.

So far the transition has been seamless, winning the first two rounds of the national series and a victory at Mount Stromlo on Sunday will secure her place at the world championships in South Africa later this year.

''It's been a long time since I've been able to compete in my home town, I never really raced a big downhill event at Stromlo before,'' she said. ''I threw myself in the deep end and basically felt like I was learning to ride again when I went back to mountain biking.

''And I get to have family and friends there, some who have never seen me ride before, and I love a crowd. The past couple of years have been pretty stressful, so to go back to that scene where I won in 2009 … I always want to win but I want to have fun.''

The championships will be at Mount Stromlo for the next five days with cross country, downhill and bicycle trial events. The downhill seeding is on Saturday with the final on Sunday.

While Buchanan has dominated in her first two events, her momentum could be halted by the return of four-time national champion Tracey Hannah.

A former under-19 world champion, Hannah is competing at her first event since breaking her femur last July.

Buchanan is widely regarded as one of the best mountain bikers in Australia. But after spending the past three years focusing on BMX and the Olympics, she admits she has to re-learn the sport.

The big lure for winning in Canberra is a chance to automatically qualify for the world titles in South Africa.

Despite starting at the bottom of the Australian rankings, Buchanan has set herself a goal of international glory again. ''I set my goals high, I want to win nationals, I want to win the world title and I want to do well overseas,'' Buchanan said.

WEDNESDAY

National mountain bike championships: at Mount Stromlo. Concludes on Sunday.

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