Twelve kilometres of the World Championships under-23 individual time trial remaining, and it looked set to be another day of disappointment for Campbell Flakemore. A disappointed fourth-place finisher in the event in Florence twelve months ago, the Australian was planning to make amends in Ponferrada, and while a podium place remained in reach, the rainbow jersey seemed destined for the shoulders of Ireland’s Ryan Mullen.
Flakemore, however, had gauged his effort to perfection on a rain-soaked course where the only significant climb came in the final six kilometres. Though some 20 seconds down on Mullen at the second time check, the more slightly-built Flakemore sensed he had scope to make up time in the finale.
"I knew that last climb was going to be difficult at the end of 40 odd minutes so I kept a little bit back and it seems that it made the difference," Flakemore said. "Then the last kilometre was about emptying the tank. It was just so close. It could have gone either way really."
Another obstacle was the rain that buffeted north-western Spain for much of the afternoon, although as Flakemore pointed out, the conditions were more or less equally treacherous for all of the contenders. "I may have lost some time on the corners but the conditions were the same for everybody, it didn't just start raining for the last riders."
When Campbell hurled himself at the line, he had no idea of whether his efforts had been enough, but as he turned to check the scoreboard at the finish, he had confirmation that he had – just – pipped Mullen to the rainbow jersey. The Irishman's deficit was a cruel 0.48 of a second.
At 20-years-of-age, Mullen at least has the consolation of competing for this title at the 2015 Worlds in Richmond. For Flakemore, in his final year as an espoir, Ponferrada constituted something of a last chance saloon, and he was eager to lay to rest the ghosts of Florence, where he suffered an off-day while his compatriot Damien Howson claimed the rainbow jersey.
"That was a driving focus for the whole time trial today. I was really disappointed with my result last year in Florence," he said. "I knew that on a good day last year I could have been around Damien but that wasn't the case and this year, it was the thing that was driving me. And it did."
Howson has since signed for Orica-GreenEdge and on Sunday, the neo-professional added another World Championship medal to his palmares when he formed part of their silver-medal-winning sextet in the team time trial.
Australia's other recent under-23 time trial world champions, Luke Durbridge and Jack Bobridge, as well as medallists Rohan Dennis, Cameron Meyer and Michael Hepburn, have also all made the step up to WorldTour level. Currently with Australian Continental outfit Avanti Racing Team, Flakemore landed victory in the Tour de l'Avenir prologue last month but has yet to sign a professional contract for 2015.
"I'd like to follow in their footsteps. I was teammates with Damien last year and he rode the team time trial with GreenEdge yesterday so I know I'm around the mark in the time trialling aspect of the sport," Flakemore said. "But I think I've got a long way to go on the road with my endurance and things but hopefully that can keep progressing over the next few years.
"I haven't got anything yet but hopefully my prologue win at l'Avenir and my win today can help to get me a WorldTour team for next year."