While there will be of course a lot of athletes who are gunning for a result in the Under 23 men's road race at the Cycling Australia Road National Championships on Saturday, one genuine contender's determination was on show for all to see during the time trial on Wednesday.
Adam Phelan, off the back of an impressive performance at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, looked set to post a time which would have placed him inside the top five and easily on the podium when he rode too hot into one of the final corners with around one kilometre left to race. His immediate instinct was to go for his right brake when he should have been putting the squeeze on the left lever, his set up on his road bike. Phelan's back wheel locked up and next thing he knew he was on the asphalt.
A decent chunk out of his shoulder, and some skin off his elbow, the 21-year-old had dropped his chain and also couldn't use his pedals properly. It meant for a much slower ride into the finish than what he'd been hoping and an 11th placing.
"It shouldn't affect me too badly," Phelan told Cyclingnews. "There's a bit of soreness but all my bones are okay. It just makes me all the more hungry for the road race on Saturday."
The 2013 edition of the Australian Championships brings Phelan full circle, having missed out on last year's event due to a head injury suffered during a December training camp with his team, Drapac Professional Cycling. Since, he's ridden with the Australian Under 23 Continental team, Jayco-AIS, in Europe where he won the 1.2 GP di Poggiana and then performed admirably at the UCI Road World Championships, launching a last-ditch attack up the Cauberg on the final lap.
"It's a completely different start to the year, compared to last year," said Phelan. "I had injury after injury there but now I've got different opportunities and racing to get underway so I'm really positive about the year and happy to get over the start of last year."
Phelan will face a crack field on Saturday morning in the 137.2km race if he is to join a list of past winners which includes Graeme Brown, Simon Gerrans, CJ Sutton, Jack Bobridge, Simon Clarke and most recently, Rohan Dennis. At the pointy end of Phelan's rivals for a green and gold jersey, is the newest rider on a prestigious list of winners at the Sun Tour, Calvin Watson, who earned a bronze medal in the race in 2012.
"Based off form here and how he went last year, Calvin Watson is always going to be up there," said Phelan. "Hopefully everyone's going to take a bit more notice of him now. Pat Lane and a few of the first years' coming up will get into the mix - you never know what Caleb's [Ewan] going to bust out and do."
The Sun Tour has provided a preview to the Cycling Australia Road National Championships like never before. Phelan was consistent and didn't fall out of the general classification's top 10 until the final stage with two ascents of the tricky Arthurs Seat climb. Phelan, was a threat and was marked accordingly in numerous breakaways.
The Canberran will be based in Europe once again with the re-badged Jayco-AIS team, the Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy with the Nations Cup events first on the agenda. It will be the third year Phelan has raced on the continent, an experience that's all but impossible to match.
"I've raced in Europe for the last two years now in fairly short stints," he told Cyclingnews. "I was over for five months last year so I really benefitted from that and gained a lot. I've had a taste of a few of the bigger races doing 1.1s with Drapac against Pro teams so I've learned the different dynamics. It is a lot different in Europe but it's just more about learning how it's raced. Anyone that's going to be in the team is going to be good enough to do well there. You've just got to learn the racing so I think having a couple of years of experience will definitely help me."
There's a bit more at stake for Phelan in 2013 and a win this Saturday will go a long way to achieving his goal at the end of the season - turning professional after he competes at the UCI Road World Championships in Italy.
"I enjoyed most of the Italian races that I did so it's one that could suit me as well," he explained. "Hopefully I'll get a chance to check it out while I'm there because it's not too far from where we're staying. I've heard that it's a pretty hard berg that you go over lots of times but hopefully I'll be able to climb well enough to make the team and have a good shot at it as well."
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