Great Britain’s Liam Phillips feels he no longer has ‘the weight of the world’ on his shoulders after his BMX world championship triumph and will make the defence of the title his priority for 2014.
The 24-year-old will wear his newly acquired rainbow stripes for the first time on the international stage on the 28 September at the final round of the 2013 UCI BMX Supercross in Chula Vista.
Phillips’ world title came after a difficult 2012 in which he crashed out of both the BMX world championships in Birmingham, suffering a fractured collarbone, and the London Olympic Games final.
But 2013 saw a resurgence with a maiden win in the UCI’s premier BMX series coming on home turf in Manchester, the prelude to his heroics in Auckland, New Zealand, as he became Britain’s first elite men’s world champion since Dale Holmes in 2001.
Instead of the pressures that could be expected to come with the tag of world champion, Phillips believes a burden has been lifted ahead of his trip to the United States Olympic Training Centre in California but is insistent he will be going in search of victory.
“Regardless of what happens in Chula I can be proud of the year I have had so I’m going there looking to ride my bike the best I can,” Phillips said. “I’m always looking to be competitive and I want to win.
“I’m not going there just to make up the numbers but at the same time I don’t feel all of a sudden I have got the weight of the world on my shoulders.”
“It’s a difficult one, you approach every race differently, this is certainly no exception. I feel quite weird about it, I feel relaxed and I didn’t think that would be the case. I feel that although I want to go out and do the jersey proud I’ve had a really good year, I have achieved a lot through the course of the season.”
Phillips will take a break after the final stop on the UCI calendar having trained and competed with regularity and intensity since returning to the sport in 2011, following a brief spell on the Great Britain track team.
Beyond the welcome rest, 2014 has already been the subject of Phillips’ thoughts and an elusive second successive crown at the BMX world championships next July in Rotterdam is at the forefront of his mind.
“I’m ready to draw a line under 2013 and I’ll have a little time off and then get ready for next season. There are some big races next year, I certainly need to recharge my batteries and then crack on and make some head way ahead of next season.
“The world champs is huge isn’t it? If you can retain that title, I think there’s only one athlete that has managed to do it (American Kyle Bennett in 2003) in the modern era, to be able to do that would be amazing.”
Adding further wins on the world cup circuit is also a priority for Phillips after registering his success at Manchester in April.
“The world champs is huge isn’t it? If you can retain that title, to be able to do that would be amazing.”
In particular, finding a winning formula for venues which have proven barren is a driving force. Five dates have been confirmed for the 2014 series, Berlin joining current locations Manchester, Santiago del Estero, Papendal and Chula Vista..
“Every world cup is almost as important as the worlds so I would like to be able to get some strong races together on tracks that so far I haven’t been able to put results together on like Chula,” Phillips said.
“That’s one of the biggest reasons for me going there, up until now these big wide open tracks have been a little bit different to the success I’ve had indoors so to be able to go there and get some success would be great.”
Phillips can take heart from encouraging time trials in open-air events undone by errors in racing, which he will look to quell in California.
“I think that really it has just come down to mistakes,” Phillips explained. “In terms of the time trial that’s just you versus the clock, point A to point B and I’ve managed to time trial really well on the outdoor tracks so I don’t think it’s a case that I’m not as good on the outdoor tracks.
“I think it’s trying to minimise mistakes, that’s the biggest thing I took into the worlds and it’ll be the same in Chula. The race is always important down the first straight and you get that bit locked in and then you try and minimise mistakes.
“I know from how well my training has gone since the worlds it’s been a good thing, I’m going well now and I think I’ve targeted certain things in the gym and things on the bike and everything’s heading in the right direction.”