Great Britain’s Grant Ferguson is hoping to end the best season of his career to date on a high with a strong performance at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships on Friday.
Ferguson, along with Great Britain team-mate Iain Paton, will ride the under-23 cross-country event on 5 September at the Hafjell ski and bike park near Lillehammer.
"I’m really pleased with my form,” said Ferguson a week after achieving a career-best second place in the final UCI Mountain Bike World Cup round in France, where the 20-year-old out-sprinted Dutchman Michiel van der Heijden to take second behind world cup winner Jordan Sarrou of France.
“I got fourth in the world cup overall which is pretty cool actually,” Ferguson said. “I didn't think I was going to achieve much in that because I missed three of the rounds in the end.”
Ferguson joined the Olympic Development Programme in 2008 before graduating onto the Olympic Academy Programme at age 18. Since then the man from Peebles has delivered on his promise and improved year on year.
A stellar 2014 has seen him retain the elite British cross-country title, place fifth in an elite field at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and take three world cup podium finishes - third places at round one in South Africa and the penultimate round in the USA adding to his fine second in France.
Ferguson’s result in Meribel was the most vivid demonstration yet of his growing physical and tactical ability.
"It was a sprint in the end,” said Ferguson. “There were three of us in the last lap together but two of us got away before the final ascent so that decided the podium.
"The course in Meribel finished down a descent so I just stayed on the wheel and a had an eye on the finish, thinking 'well, as long as I can come out of the bottom of the descent right on the wheel I'll give it a shot to come round and try to get second’.”
The result has given Ferguson confidence with the biggest race of the year approaching, the Scot also reaping the benefits of a front-row grid position.
“It'll be the same boys I'll be racing next week so I'm looking forward and I think the fact that I've been to the podium a couple of times this year in the world cup means I'm in quite a good place to give it a shot and see how it goes on the big day," he said.
"Hopefully I'll be fourth or fifth on the grid which is front row - once you're on the front it's your start. As long as you position yourself well in the move.”
However, Ferguson’s confidence is tempered with a knowledge that he’s up against a rider who’s head and shoulders above the rest of the field, Frenchman Jordan Sarrou.
"Jordan Sarrou is a big favourite for the race for sure”, said Ferguson. “He's been on the podium in every single world up this year.
“There's also people like Michiel van der Heijden who's been a medallist the last couple of years.”
Ferguson, whose chances were dashed in the first lap at the 2013 world championships in Pietermaritzburg, is also acutely aware that fate can be fickle in his sport.
"Obviously last year I went into it on the front row and was really fit last year but snapped my chain on the start line. In mountain bike racing there are no guarantees.
"So I'll be looking to make the most of my opportunity and race my best.”
The prospect of racing for a podium finish would have seemed a distant dream for the Grant Ferguson that joined the British Cycling Olympic Development Programme six years ago.
"It wasn't too long ago that I was on ODP,” said Ferguson. “I did three years on ODP and now I'm in my third year on the academy.
"The support within British Cycling has been really helpful.
“My coach Phil Dixon has a lot of experience that he can pass on to me from working with the likes of Annie Last and Liam Killeen.
"It's been a massive help."
Grant Ferguson will race the cross-country team relay on Wednesday 3 September alongside Alice Barnes, Iain Paton and Dylan Kerfoot-Robson before the under-23 cross-country race on Friday.
Reports and results will appear on the British Cycling website.