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Firestorm burnt into Buchanan's memory

Caroline Buchanan still remembers the mad dash to save her BMX moments before the Canberra firestorm destroyed her Duffy home 10 years ago.

Her bike was one of the only things she grabbed as her family raced to safety on a day of heartbreak and tragedy.

A decade on and Canberra will stop on Friday to reflect on the disaster which killed four people, injured hundreds and destroyed almost 500 homes.

Olympian Buchanan will be at Mount Buller in Victoria preparing for the next phase of her blossoming career – a journey into mountain bike downhill racing.

But before she begins her campaign to be one of the best downhill riders in the world, Buchanan will pause to remember the devastation a decade ago and the fire that helped fuel her riding career.

As flames roared closer to her house 10 years ago, a then 12-year-old Buchanan grabbed some trophies, her two BMXs and her brother’s mountain bike.


When she returned the next day her house had been ripped apart, possessions destroyed and her world had crumbled.

The pain will never be forgotten, but the 22-year-old credits her BMX career for easing the heartache of the firestorm and helping her family recover.

‘‘You never forget about it, it’s always in the back of your mind,’’ Buchanan said.

‘‘Out of nowhere the sky went black, a helicopter came to get water out of a neighbour’s pool and that’s when we knew we had to go.

‘‘We had a trailer so I was carrying big bikes up and down the stairs. The adrenaline was crazy.

‘‘I can’t believe it’s 10 years. As a family, we used our bikes and BMX to get over everything.

‘‘BMX saved us as a family, helped get our life back on track ... we kept racing and that never changed even though our life turned upside down.’’

Buchanan will begin a new challenge at Mt Buller this weekend at the opening round of the national mountain bike series.

Less than a year after her Olympic Games gold medal BMX hopes were shattered in London, the cycling star has decided to swap to mountain biking.

She has set herself the lofty goal of reaching the podium at the world titles later this year.

Buchanan admitted to nerves before her first practice session, but as an Olympian and BMX time-trial and four-cross world champion, she is hungry to find more success.

This month, she became the first female rider in more than a decade to sign a deal with DK Bicycles.

‘‘I’m a little bit nervous because I always set my goals high and challenge myself ... I want to do well in the national season and get into the world championships,’’ Buchanan said.

‘‘In the long term, I’m still looking at BMX at the Rio Olympics [in 2016], but this is my year to have fun and do something different as well as taking on new challenges.’’

Buchanan will have her first practice session on Friday before the final is raced on Sunday.