For Gracie Elvin, the Tour of Flanders and Commonwealth Games in April remain the primary targets of the early-season. Second place, then, at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on Saturday was disappointingly close to a major win on home soil but a result kept in perspective of her April ambitions.
“I am really pleased, to be honest, because I try not to target the Aussie races even though they are really big and important, because for me personally, I find it really hard to keep that form going into the spring classics and I am really targeting those races this year,” said Elvin, who has twice won the national title in the first week of January.
"Especially Flanders where I got second last year, and then this year we have a big race in that period with the Commonwealth Games. I have been trying really hard to track my training to get me to that peak level for then and not for now."
With Mitchelton-Scott riding for defending champion Annemiek van Vleuten at Cadel’s race, 'plan A' was in play until the final kilometres when the world time trial champion's three-rider escape group was reeled in to set up a bunch sprint.
Despite doing no "speed work" during her off-season training, Elvin took over the reins for Mitchelton-Scott in the finale and was able to out-kick dual world champion Giorgia Bronzini but couldn't match the finishing prowess of Chloe Hosking.
"She is in super good form and was going to be hard to beat in that situation. The only way we could have done it was not let her come back after Challambra but she is in really good shape and powered over the top of the climb," Elvin said of the climb added to the parcours for 2018.
"I couldn't even stay with her over the crest of the hill. I had to work a bit to get back to that group with Spratty, so credit to her. She deserved it today."
With Santos Women's Tour winner Amanda Spratt also in the final group for company, Elvin further explained the team tactics and plan for the sprint finish and again tipped her cap to Hosking.
"We were really backing Annemiek for the finish. She is a classy bike rider and even though she is not in her top form at the moment, she is capable of winning a race like this. Spratty and I behind had to stay cool, calm and collected and nearly pulled it off. We were just beaten by a very classy sprinter in Chloe Hosking."
With selection for the Commonwealth Games yet to be finalised for Elvin, the 29-year-old added that she has had honest and open conversations about the quadrennial event with selectors. Her ability to hit the podium in Geelong is one factor she hopes will help secure a return to the Games, having placed sixth on her debut in 2014.
"I have tried to be honest with them from the start of the selection process. They need to trust me that I am good at peaking for big events and that I was going to stick to my plan in January and I have. I am really happy with myself," she said.
Before Elvin embarks on her spring classics odyssey, she will line out at the inaugural UCI Herald Sun Tour next week in Victoria, the race ensuring equal opportunities for the women's peloton across the Australian summer.