Liam White has been building with every push of his pedals for the moment when he steps up with the elite men in the Cycling Australia Road National Championships.
That time arrives for the Ballarat 22-year-old in the criterium in Ballarat’s Sturt Street on Wednesday night.
His elite debut coincides with his first outing for the new UCI continental team Drapac-Pat’s Veg, which he hopes will be a launching pad to a long and successful international career.
White has ridden in open company before, but nothing like what he and three teammates will experience in the helter skelter of the opening event of the championships.
White has been well prepared, having been coached by Pat Shaw, who will be watching from the sidelines in retirement after finishing fourth in last year’s criterium.
His new team is also fresh from its first full-scale training camp since being formed.
White said Shaw had emphasised the importance of focusing on his own race - ensuring he did not get caught up in the tactics of others.
He said his plan would centre on staying as close as possible to the main contenders.
“I’d be over the moon with a top 10 finish. I’ll be happy with a top 15.”
It is no surprise that White expects the pace to be on from the outset of the 40 1.1km laps, with defending champion and explosive sprinter Caleb Ewan the one to beat.
Throw in the likes of other past champions Anthony Giacoppo and SteeIe Von Hoff, last year’s silver medalist Brenton Jones, Jesse Kerrison and Scott Sunderland and the race can only be action-packed.
Sophie Mackay from New South Wales is the defending elite women’s champion in what looks like being an open affair.
Amanda Spratt will be eager to claim the title, with Olympian Georgia Baker from Tasmania and former under-23 champions Shannon Malseed, Emily Roper and Jessica Mundy all with real chances in a championships which continue with time trials on Thursday on Buninyong and road races at Buninyong on Saturday and Sunday.
West Australian Sam Welsford shapes as a major player in the men’s under-23 criterium.
He arrives in Ballarat at the top of his game after an outstanding run in the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals, where he won the Latrobe and Burnie wheelraces.
Welsford, who is coming off an outstanding year in which he claimed a world championship and Olympic silver medal in the team pursuit, was also the leading criterium rider in Tasmania with victories at Westbury and Burnie