BMX racer Liam Phillips may need to pinch himself before he takes to the track at the first UCI Supercross World Cup race of the season in Manchester.
When the British rider stands in the starting gate this weekend he will be wearing the coveted Rainbow jersey after winning the World Championship title last season.
And the 25-year-old admits it is a dream come true to show off the colourful stripes in front of passionate British supporters.
“It’s just a massive honour to be able to race in front of a home crowd,” he said.
“Also with the best athletes in the world, on a track that I train at every day and being able to wear the rainbow jersey, it’s like a dream really.”
“For me it’s just about going out and doing my thing and enjoying the occasion. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Expectations will be higher than ever for Phillips. He dominated at the Manchester leg of the World Cup last year – winning both the time trial and the main event to record his first ever World Cup victory.
It was the perfect way to start the season and he continued to move up through the gears before becoming champion of the world two months later.
And when he returns to the National Cycling Centre in Manchester, trying to get another flying start to a World Cup season, he believes it will be a very different feeling.
“It’s been quite a good 12 months,” he said. “I’ve become World Champion and really things kicked off here in Manchester.
“But it’s very different coming into this season off the back of last season because I’m wearing that Rainbow jersey. I know that I’m able to compete at this level.”
Phillips insists he will not feel the pressure of the Raindow jersey as World Champion
The sport of BMX racing has gone from strength to strength over the last two years, along with its current world champion.
The sport first appeared at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when Phillips made the quarterfinals, and returned at London 2012 where he was unlucky to crash out in the final and finish eighth.
And, despite failing to medal in front of home support two years ago due to the sport’s highly unpredictable nature, Phillips is expecting the atmosphere in Manchester to speed him up rather than weigh him down.
“I raced really well here last year,” he said. “More than anything I was able to deal with the pressure and the expectation from the crowd and other riders.
“My training over the winter has been amazing. It’s just been enjoyable and it will continue to be.
“I think that’s when the best work is done. I’m looking forward to putting what I’ve worked on over the winter into action at the first world cup.”
The UCI BMX Supercross World Cup in Manchester takes place on Friday 18th April and Saturday 19th April. Click here for tickets.