Story by SAM STRONG (Bay Post)
FORMER Moruya man Brendan Johnston turned in two terrific podium performances in the double-header of the National Mountain Bike Series in Pemberton, Western Australia.
In the south-west corner of Australia, the 23-year-old finished third in round two of the Cross-Country Olympic series on Saturday and backed up to go one better on Sunday.
It was an improved ride for Johnston as he leapt from sixth to second overall in the elite men’s category after round one in Yangs, Victoria.
“On the first day I was third and I was happy with that,” Johnston said.
“We were expecting it to be quite hot but the course was shady and protected.
“Saturday’s course was a bit tougher than Sunday’s.”
Johnston felt it was smarter to conserve his energy for Sunday when he realised he couldn’t catch the front-runners in round two.
“With one or two laps to go I thought I did not have much of a chance of catching second so I shut down a bit to save my legs for the next day,” he said.
On Sunday, Johnston led last year’s series winner Cameron Ivory for the majority of the race until he was overtaken with one lap remaining of the eight lap race.
“I sort of made a couple of mistakes which resulted in him catching me and unfortunately I could not really go with him,” he said.
“I lost a few seconds here and there on corners. I feel like I could have won it but what can you do.
“He was the series champion and a Commonwealth Games representative so it’s a good sign for me.”
The next round is on February 6 and 7 at Mt Stromlo in the ACT before two rounds in Toowoomba, which include the Oceania Championships in late February, and the final round, which is also the National Champion-ships at Bright, Victoria, from March 12 to 15.
After a strong summer of training Johnston is hoping to land more podium finishes.
“There are a lot of races coming up so hopefully I can capitalise and put in some good results,” he said.
Johnston played down his home-ground advantage for the event at Mt Stromlo as he believed the course did not suit him “quite well”.
“I train up there all the time and I go well on climbs but not the steep climbs,” he said.
“But it’s good to have a bit of local knowledge.”
Batemans Bay’s Jack Lavis, Johnston’s Trek Racing Australia team mate, tackled the event at Pemberton and finished seventh in round two and 12th in round three.
The under 23s rider sits 11th on the overall leader board. He didn’t race in round one.
Johnston praised his team, and sponsors, and said he was looking forward to trying new bikes with updated technology.
“We’ve got new bikes on the way and there is meant to be an electronic drive train instead of all the cables and gears,” he said.
“It’s coming with the new bikes and it has received good reviews.
“Our main sponsor has also committed $300,000 to the team for the next three years, which is exciting for us.”
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