Credit: Cycling Australia / Con Chronis / Zac Williams
First-year junior Alyssa Polites (Sydney Uni-Staminade) showed no fear in her first event against the older junior riders, blitzing the new national time trial course to take out the win.
Polites finished in a time of 28 minutes and 27 seconds over the 18.8 kilometre course, belying the challenge of stepping a level into a higher age group with a sterling performance.
“This is my first Under 19s race so a longer distance from my junior races,” said Polites. “That’s a different concept to get used to and otherwise it was really challenging compared to my junior races.”
The new course wasn’t an obstacle for Polites, new to the Ballarat nationals and she performed very well against riders that have proven themselves at junior level in the past in Francesca Sewell (Roxsolt Attaquer) and Catelyn Turner (St Lukes Health-TIS), winning with a margin of 23 seconds to Sewell.
“At the start it was straight over the hill and then after that, it was about getting tempo going and leg speed,” said Polites of the route. “There was a lot of wind out there, but other than that, it was a good course.”
Polites has a healthy respect for her racing rivals, with the athletes coming together at the end of the race to congratulate each other after a hard-fought ride, with Polites reserving special praise for Sewell.
“Honestly I thought she was going to be the one to beat and I was surprised to beat her in the end,” said Polites. “She’s an amazing rider and I look up to her in a way. She did really well last season and it would be nice to follow in her footsteps.”
Polites, 17, is finishing off high school this year and will have to engage in the difficult juggling act of managing an academic education and sporting career with Sydney Uni-Staminade.
“I’ll be doing Year 12 alongside my racing,” said Polites, “so hopefully I can get a few races in. Otherwise the main priority this year is schooling and then we see what happens after this season.”
“I try not to put those expectations on me, I come into racing with a clean slate and try not to put that pressure on myself. The main priority is to get across the line as quick as I can.”
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Written by Jamie Finch-Penninger