New Rabobank signing Lauren Kitchen was feeling the frustration of being one in a battle against many on Thursday at the Australian Criterium Championship, where she finished with a bronze medal in the under 23 division behind GreenEdge-AIS' Melissa Hoskins and SASI rider Annette Edmondson.
As defending champion in the event, Kitchen was one of the favourites, but did not have the extra leg work acquired by some of her rivals at the Jayco Bay Series Classic earlier in the week.
"It's always difficult because you're going to be marked being the defending champion but I think the most difficult thing was coming by myself without a team this year but that's exciting to go to a bigger team to race for the rest of the season, so it's good," the 21-year-old said.
"I got off to a good start and have had a good hit out so hopefully for the road race we can get some good results as well."
Kitchen made particular mention of the form of the GreenEdge-AIS team, suggesting that the rest of the field was becoming a victim of the new professional squad working with the assistance of the AIS team, also entered in the race.
"Even though they're in different jerseys I think it's a little bit evident to a lot of people that they're riding as one team," Kitchen said, a former member of the national Jayco-AIS squad before being signed to Rabobank. "That's nearly half the field when it's halfway through the race. It makes it very difficult for anyone to get off the front or do anything else in the race."
The GreenEdge-AIS team later denied colluding with the AIS squad.
Having had a stunning 2011 titles, winning both the criterium and under 23 time trial championship, Kitchen said that it might just be a different story when it comes to tactics during Saturday's road race.
"The course at Buninyong is a race of attrition no matter who's in what team so tactics come into it for sure," Kitchen said. "You've got a lot of girls that you haven't seen yet who are going to be fresh on Saturday."
Newest GreenEdge-AIS recruit Alexis Rhodes echoed the sentiments, following her fourth criterium championship gold medal.
"There's Jo Hogan, we saw she's in really good form last year and she looks good this year. There's also Carla Ryan my former teammate - never count her out on that sort of a circuit she's amazing. Then I'm sure there's a few others that I've forgotten ... Bridie O'Donnell," Rhodes, defending road champion suggested.
"We'd like to think that we can dictate the race but we don't want to get to confident."