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First year under-23 rider crowned national criterium winner
Fresh out of the junior ranks, Western Australian Bradley Linfield took on the Jayco Herald Sun Tour unfazed by the race distance - his longest since stepping up to the under-23 category this year. He finished fourth overall while riding with the revised Australian under-23 National Team and is "gee'd" for the season to come.
Less than a week following the conclusion at Arthurs Seat Linfield showed little sign of fatigue from what was his biggest race to date. He joined the winning breakaway group and duly attacked his companions before the sprint opened up to win the Australian under-23 criterium title - held along the main street of Ballarat.
Joining the Australian National Team for the coming year is a dream come true for Linfield who has followed the espoir squad since he began his cycling career. Changes to the set-up are a good thing according to Linfield who suggested that riders have to remain hungry and motivated if they are to maintain their position in the team throughout the year.
"I remember when I first started [riding] and it was SA.com and then it became Jayco-AIS and Jayco-Skins, I've always loved the program and dreamt of coming into it. For it to actually happen I really happy.
"It's changed a lot but once you are in the program it's much the same. The difference now is that if you are going bad then you will get kicked out whereas as before I think they were finding that you would get given a two-year contract and riders felt like they were safe," he said.
"Some riders maybe let their performance drop and perhaps it wasn't developing the riders as good as they could. Now there are going to be so many guys coming into the program and pushing you even more. You'll have to be a lot more motivated if you want to stay there."
At the Sun Tour, Linfield found himself as the team's highest place rider on the general classification but admits the conditions were tougher than he expected.
"Sun Tour was just ridiculous," Linfield told Cyclingnews. "It's the longest races I've done since coming out of under-19's. Doing 150k's and just with that heat it got to me a bit. After the final stage I was feeling better, kind of got used to it and had a couple of days easy in Melbourne before coming here.
Linfield was part of the opening day's breakaway group at the Sun Tour but the heat, which soared above 40 degrees, got the better of him. He was dispatched shortly after the final sprint after cramping with a little under 25km to go before bravely rejoining the break. When the final three got away, he was left to chase. With a few easy days to recover, Linfield says he's ready for his next goal: winning the road race on Saturday.
"Winning the crit obviously I'm really, really happy with that but I didn't come here [to Ballarat] with that as a goal in any way," said Linfield.
"I'm mainly just focussed on Saturday. I've always wanted to win a road race since U-17's. I missed out last year. After Sun Tour I've really hope that I can have a go. There's obviously going to be very hard but I'm really gee'd. I'd love to win it.
"Hopefully I'm ready to go well on Saturday."
There's no rush for Linfield who will only turn 19 in June this year. For this season he hopes to work on a number of areas and also seek opportunities to chase results. However, Linfield understands the importance of giving back to his teammates. There's no place for selfishness according to the young rider.
"I'd really like to focus on the harder stage races and see how I go on tours. I want to work on my time trialing because I haven't done a lot of that at all. One-day races, the hilly ones. I'd love to get good in the bergs," Linfield told Cyclingnews.
"It was a pretty big step up [to Sun Tour] but I'm looking forward to it. I've always liked harder and longer races so hopefully they suit me better.
"If I get some really good form I don't see why I couldn't be one of the riders who gets looked after. On the other hand if there's other guys going better then it's only right to give the best to them and see what they can do. Otherwise, if you go over and be selfish I don't think you would last very long in the squad. I really want to try and stay in there for a couple of years at least - and then go to the next level."