DAMIEN Howson stood up to the pressure and lived up to expectations to become the new national under-23 men’s cycling time trial champion in Ballarat yesterday.
The South Australian battled cross winds to conquer the new Lake Wendouree-Avenue of Honour circuit and go one better than his silver medal in the same event last year.
Howson, 20, will carry the Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships’ title colours into the Tour Down Under later this month before heading to Europe with the Australian national under-23 team.
Despite his performance, he is not likely to focus on the time trial again until the lead up to world championships later in the year.
Howson averaged 50.5km/h to clock 34 minutes, 42.18 seconds for the 29.2-kilometres.
Alex Morgan (Victoria) collected silver, while Tasmanian Campbell Flakemore was bronze medallist for the second year in a row.
Jordan Kelly (Queensland) led early but was relegated to fourth after his time was swamped by the last three riders.
Howson said finding and keeping a rhythm had been key to his gold medal performance.
He said being favourite definitely added to the pressure of the day even though he did not let it play on his mind.
Howson said he was relieved as much as anything to get the job done.
“All I did was focus on what I had to do.
“I knew my best should be good enough.”
Howson said that although the course was “pancake flat”, varying wind speeds across the lake initially, and then direct cross winds, had made the event tough.
In his seventh year in the sport, Howson said it had been all or nothing with five kilometres to go.
“I had to dig deep.”
He will now back up in tonight’s under-23 criterium and Saturday’s road race.