Dave Ryding primed for battle to retain national crown
He may have a World Cup slalom podium to his name this year, but skier Dave Ryding is anticipating a fight to win at the Delancey British National Alpine Ski Championships next week.
The 30-year-old from Chorley made history in January by becoming the first Brit in 35 years to score an alpine skiing podium when he finished second on the fearsome Kitzbuehel slope in Austria.
The Delancey British National Alpine Ski Championships take place in the world-class ski resort of Tignes, France, from 25th March to 7th April 2017.
And Ryding, who also registered four other top ten World Cup finishes this season, is out to collect an eighth national title.
But despite his impressive results sheet this season, the Kandahar Ski Club member is still wary of challenges posed by Britain's up and coming slalom skiers.
"I'd actually say it's probably going to be the hardest British Champs for me to win because we've got a couple of really good skiers now coming through," he said.
"I keep an eye on a lot of British racers, and certainly the ones skiing with the British team now, the younger guys.
"So I'm calling it as a really tough challenge and a tough race. They will be right up for it, it's the biggest race of their season and I'm coming off a busy schedule, so I'll certainly be trying my best and I think it will be a very good race this year."
The Championships are set to be the biggest event of the year for the British ski racing world, looking to build on British Ski and Snowboard's best season to date on the path to Pyeongchang 2018.
However some may have forgiven Ryding for skipping the event, having just finished a gruelling World Cup season in which he recorded an eighth place finish overall – but the man himself says missing Tignes was never an option.
"It's always been in the plan. It's nice for me to go there, certainly for the younger guys, to give them the chance to race against me, and just to show that someone from there can achieve what I've done – that is where it starts," he added.
"Ten or 12 years ago the British Champs was always my biggest race of the season, so I've got a lot of fond memories and a lot of good times racing at the British Champs – being able to race against Alain Baxter, Noel Baxter and Finlay Mickel.
Dave Ryding of Great Britain in actionReuters
"Obviously I'm in a different boat now, but I respect that it was big for me back then, so I want to be able to give kids what I felt back then, the chance for them to feel now."
He is, however, looking forward to the end of his season, with just the national championships and a couple of extra weeks training and testing left before he can finally put his feet up.
"I was willing the season to end after Kitzbuehel. I was so tired and drained after the month of January, especially with Schladming two days later," said Ryding.
"Obviously I was training hard and still getting focused for the races, but at the same time I had this amazing achievement that I wasn't really getting time to look back and reflect on.
"So it is nice to look back now and take in what I've achieved."
He could not have achieved the podium at a better time, either, with the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, in Pyeongchang, Korea, less than a year away. However he insists he is not thinking that far ahead, yet.
"I didn't really have any preconceptions of what it was going to be like, because I hadn't really expected to be on the podium this year, if ever in my life," he concluded.
"I never thought I would say it but it was a life changing moment. The next day people were recognising me around Austria and the media and press were very interested in my story.
"So never mind just having the podium, the energy that takes, but the energy it takes in the media was very different and very sapping.
"So it's been a big learning curve this season, as well as a great one.
"Obviously there's a big highlighted marker around that Olympic race, now, but first I've got to get another good summer of training under my belt."