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Under-23 TT winner tracing footsteps of past Australian champions
The recently-crowned Australian under-23 time trial champion, Damien Howson, says he wants to follow in the footsteps of riders like Rohan Dennis and Luke Durbridge and use the opportunity of riding the Santos Tour Down Under to really put himself on the map.
Second at the Australian National Championships, gold at the Oceania Time Trial Championships and bronze at the UCI World Championships in 2012 meant Howson was a hot favourite for the 29.2km test in 2013.
"It was brought to my attention by a few people and also the pressure I put on myself," said Howson. "It was just a matter of putting it together on the day and make sure I got those green and gold bands."
"The improvement that I've seen in myself over the past two years, there's been some huge steps forward. I always set myself goals along the way and for this year I think by winning the National's in the TT - I'll have to wait till Saturday - but they are two big objectives of mine," he told Cyclingnews.
The 20-year-old Damien Howson took to the top step of the podium after winning the Australian under-23 Time Trial Championships on Wednesday and after a powerful ride in the criterium the following afternoon, it's all eyes on taking another national title in the 137.2km road race.
Last year it was his former teammate Dennis who took both the TT and road titles before finally joining the Garmin-Sharp team at the end of 2012. It would appear that Howson is on track to repeat that same achievement.
Howson's Stage 3 performance at last week's Jayco Herald Sun Tour was exceptional. He may have failed to achieve his intended goal in the Prologue but he was a vital teammate to fourth-place overall Bradley Linfield. Howson was the first rider over the top of Arthurs Seat and did his job for the team but Sunday will see the South Australian in the protected leader's role.
"The Sun Tour was an opportunity to see where my form was at because I hadn't really raced since the World Championships [in 2012]," explained Howson. "The prologue was the event that, if I was going to achieve a result, that was the one I thought I could accomplish. But it didn't turn out how I wanted it.
"I think that was a bit too short compared to the National's," Howson told Cyclingnews.
Former winners of the Australian time trial title have gone on to bigger and better things says Howson, who was granted a spot in the Australian National Team for the opening round of the WorldTour - the Santos Tour Down Under.
"Over the last two years you've got Durbridge being national champion and riding Tour Down Under, conquering the World's. There was Rohan last year winning the national TT and going on to a superb Down Under, getting fifth on GC and close to taking out the World Championships last year," said Howson.
"If I could follow in those guys' footsteps, have a good Down Under and finish it off with hopefully taking out the World Championships at the end of the year. Hopefully I can get some rainbow stripes."
Howson will again head to Europe with the under-23 National Team this year and believes that if he can get the results, a professional contract could be sent his way. Before he gets too far ahead of himself, there's the under-23 TT World Championships to win.
"Conquering a few of the tours like Rohan did last year would be great but especially the World Championships at the end of the year is my main focus. It's the one event I really want to win.
"From there, hopefully gaining a professional contract and starting my cycling career from there."