Tamworth-based mountain biking standout Steven Roberts has showcased his boundless road-racing potential after finishing 12th in the under-19 criterium at the Road National Championships in Ballarat on Friday – less than a year after taking up the sport.
Roberts, 17, competing at his debut nationals, finished only 12 seconds behind the winner, Ballarat’s Jesse Norton.
Norton finished the 22-kilometre race, around a 1.1km loop in Ballarat’s CBD, in 33 minutes and 46 seconds.
Roberts was “very happy” with his performance, although he wished he could corner better.
“Practice on corners is gonna be my next thing,” he said, adding that he lost “a couple of metres” every time he negotiated the course’s bottom corner.
But the noted hill specialist (a byproduct of his mountain biking) benefited from the course having “a bit of a climb”.
“I felt really good on the climbs,” he said. “I was really happy with today. I’m just really keen for tomorrow’s race.”
Roberts will contest his last event at the championships, the road race, on Saturday.
The 104.4km race consists of nine 11.6km laps in the shadow of Mt Buningyong.
Robert’s believes his best chance of tasting success in the road race will come in the King of the Mountain classification, with the course including a steep climb up the mountain.
Sam Spokes, a Tamworth-based former professional cyclists, said of Roberts’ chances in the road race: “He’s someone who could definitely pull something out of the bag if in the right situation. He’s a very, very powerful climber.”
Roberts finished second in the under-19 race at cross-country state championships in Orange last month.
His Tamworth Cycle Club teammates, Luke Deasey and Conor Noonan, did not finished the criterium.
Deasey and Noonan were also slated to compete in the road race, as well as the time trial on Monday.