A bronze medallist behind Rohan Dennis and Richie Porte at the 2016 Australian time trial championships, Sean Lake's 2017 race against the clock for the green and gold didn't go to plan. Twelve months on from his seventh place, the Bennelong SwissWellness rider is confident of returning to the podium this year in Ballarat.
"Towards the end of last season I was struggling with fatigue and ended up getting sick and needed some good time off," Lake told Cyclingnews. "I started off a lot less fit than I have been in a long time, but it's been a really good block since then."
Rather than dwell on the cancellation of the Tour of Bright due to extreme weather after putting in intensive preparation at altitude in the Victorian Alps, Lake "did an awesome week of training" and has since spent "heaps of time on the TT bike" ahead of Nationals.
While last year Lake was getting used to his new team-issue Cervelo and shedding some weight and muscle from his rowing days, his preparation for 2018 has gone to plan, including fixing a crucial issue with inaccurate readings on his power meter.
"Last year obviously I tried to strip a lot of weight and at the same time my power meter was not reading accurately, so I thought I was going well but at that time I really wasn't," said Lake. "I lost basically all my power with my weight and everything that sort of made me, me. This preparation I haven't looked to stress that much about my weight and I am definitely feeling much more like my old self with much bigger numbers in the power output."
Dennis will start Friday's time trial as the odds-on favourite for a third straight title, while his BMC teammates Richie Porte and Miles Scotson, and Mitchelton-Scott's Luke Durbridge will also be aiming for the podium. However, Lake isn't thinking about the competition, and is confident of replicating his career-best TT ride at the Oceania championships in March.
"I am only focused on myself. It will be a pretty stellar field from my understanding, and with quality guys like Rohan, there is no point thinking about what others can do," he said. "I am just thinking about what I can do. Oceania was the best TT I've done, and if I can do that again or better on the day that is something I will be stoked with and should be a good result as well.
"I am not thinking about the numbers but if I can get the best of myself on the day then I should be the podium or top five at least. I am confident that I am capable of getting up there."
A return to the podium followed by a strong ride Sunday in support of his teammates could also see Lake return to the Tour Down Under with the UniSA-Australia wildcard team. On his sole appearance at the race, Lake won the mountains jersey on stage 1 to demonstrate he wasn't just making up numbers at the race. Should Lake miss selection, he is still excited by the upcoming Bennelong SwissWellness race calendar.
"That would be a massive goal and that would be awesome if it was the case," he said of making the team that will include five riders from Bennelong SwissWellness. "There is heaps of competition for the team and in terms of the style of racing Tour Down Under, I think it probably suits a lot of other riders more than me. At the same time, if I did have the form and capability to do well it would be amazing. The team also has some other great races like Sun Tour and all that so I am confident there will be some really good racing for me anyway."