By Reece Homfray, Herald Sun

BMX world champion Caroline Buchanan. Picture: Brett Costello

CAROLINE Buchanan realised a lifelong dream of becoming BMX world champion at the age of 22 last year, but the making of her happened more than a decade earlier without her even realising it.

Buchanan was a girl racing BMX in Canberra which meant she was among the minority in a male-dominated sport.

“When I started in BMX there weren’t too many girls that did it, I raced the boys, I looked up to the boys, I was one of the boys,” she said.

The other experience that put Buchanan on the path to the rainbow jersey was racing the world championships while she was still at primary school.

“I was lucky to have very supportive parents who got me to the world championships when I was nine years old,” Buchanan said.

“It’s those experiences of being on the world stage and making mistakes and having failures are the things I look back on now and called upon when I got to the Olympic level.”

Put simply, when Buchanan watches juniors racing BMX — either at her home track with the Tuggeranong Vikings or in Rotterdam for the world titles — it’s like watching an earlier version of herself.

And that’s what motivated her in January to start ‘Buchanan Next Gen’ — an all-girls BMX racing team which she plans to grow from two to four riders next year.

“I started this girls team wanting to help and mentor them and ease that pathway of getting to the top and being there,” Buchanan said.

“I’ve been able to share my experiences and help them as well as opening up some doors to sponsorship and partners that I’ve had and allowed the girls to have the best products on the market.

“I wanted to make sure these girls who are aiming for 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and 2024 have support and those experiences now.”

Part of the project involved helping to raise $10,000 to get her two riders, Mikayla Rose and Paige Harding, to this month’s world championships in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

“One of the girls Mikayla Rose is 14-years-old from Canberra and I’ve been watching her since she was six and started in the sport,” Buchanan said.

“And basically both these girls come from great families that back them as well and they have this great passion.

“They want to be Olympians. They’re champions already, but they have this special something and in BMX which is a male dominated sport, you have to have this inner mongrel, this fight and the ability to deal with adversity and it’s shown in these girls already.

“So these world championships are pretty crucial to their long-term development as an athlete.”

While the two young riders on Buchanan Next Gen will go to Rotterdam simply for the experience of it, Buchanan herself is going there to defend her world title.

Cycling Australia’s reigning ‘Cyclist of the Year’, Buchanan has been home training in Canberra for the past two weeks after winning the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup in Berlin last month.

“At the moment it’s a lot of power work in the gym, a lot of Olympic lifts and everything now is fast,” she said.

“Then the last week is always very short and sharp and recovery is the key.”

She said going into this year’s world titles which run from July 23-27 as ‘the hunted’ rather than ‘the hunter’ was a good feeling.

“Last year I went in as the defending champion for the time trial where as this year I’m coming in as the racing world champion,” she said.

“And the racing is always the more important part and the rainbow stripes that I wanted to have on my back for the entire year.

“I really like having that target on my back and being at the top.

“Pressure is good — it keeps you on your toes and I really want to win again and defend my title.

“It’s everything I worked hard for and that dream since I was a little girl starting at the age of five around the BMX track.

“Now that I’ve got it and also mountain biking, I don’t want to let it go.”

When she’s not training or racing, Buchanan is busy filming short YouTube videos for her ‘Buchanan On Air’ series and this video above which is an exclusive look at her Next Gen program.

“That’s kind of what the program is all about, chasing the rainbow jersey and it is hard, sometimes it will seem out of reach, but you’ve got to believe that there is a pot of gold at the end of it,” she said.

Caroline Buchanan is managed by The Fordham Company.

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