Springwood mountain biker Blake Nielsen will take on his toughest ever competition when he competes in the Mountain Bike World Championships in Austria at the end of August.
The former Winmalee High School student made the Australian team in dramatic fashion after coming second in his event at the national championships earlier this year - despite competing with four broken ribs and a punctured lung.
While his injuries reduced his left lung capacity by 50 per cent, Blake was determined not to let them hamper his performance in the elite men’s four cross, a form of mountain bike racing where four riders race down a dirt track.
"You were feeling out of breath before you even started basically. . . [but] I got through it, did what I had to do, and got on the team," he said.
Blake hopes to repeat that form in Saalfelden, Austria where the current Czech world champion will be the rider to beat.
"It’s going to be a lot of pressure but at the same time I’m just going to live every moment of it," he said of his first overseas meet.
With competitors reaching speeds of up to 68kmh in four cross, Blake said anything can happen if a rider reaches the finals.
"It doesn’t matter who’s in that final. There’s no favourite," he said.
The 20-year-old hopes his mental toughness combined with physical fitness will give him the edge in Austria.
"All the training on race day can mean nothing. It’s all [about your] head space. . . If you don’t have the confidence to know you can smoke these dudes off the start line, why be there?" he said.
A bike mechanic at Blackman Bicycles in Penrith, Blake hopes to eventually make a living out of the sport he loves - and a strong performance at the world championships could help him get noticed by sponsors and race teams.
Despite these possibilities, fame and fortune isn’t the top priority in his long-term career plans.
"A lot of people [say] they want the money, they want he car, all that kind of thing," he said. "I just want to travel the world and ride my bike."
People or businesses interested in sponsoring Blake can contact him on 0415 973 002 or firstname.lastname@example.org