SHE began her season battling illness and recovering from injuries, but things have certainly improved since then for Bathurst cyclist Hollee Simons.
In fact they have improved so much that she won a national championship in Wagga Wagga on the weekend.
The Cycling Australia National Junior Road Championships at Wagga Wagga was Simons’ last meeting as a junior and she certainly made sure it was one she will remember.
The Team Kenny Spring cyclist snared gold in the under 17s time trial, was NSW’s leading rider in the road race with a sixth placing and in the criterium she played a major role in helping her state team-mate Bridget Mullaney claim a silver medal.
All three rides were impressive, but naturally the winning performance in the 10 kilometre time trial was the highlight.
The field for the time trial was a classy one with the state champions from Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania amongst Simons’ rivals. Then there was Tori Sanders, one of NSW’s leading contenders for the national crown.
The Bathurst cyclist, who was seeded third, out did them all.
She covered the course in 15 minutes, 42.08 seconds as she averaged 38.21 kilometres per hour.
After completing her ride, Simons then watched on nervously as the final riders on the course finished. She admitted she had not felt the best while in the saddle.
“I felt bad on the bike, but sometimes that means you were fast,” Simons said. “I just know that if anyone was faster than me they deserve the win.”
Simons ended up comfortably clear of her closest rival, Queensland’s Jessica Pratt (15:50.15).
The effort was just reward for all the effort the Bathurst talent had put in to rediscover her best form after her earlier setbacks.
“I knew that Hollee was going into the individual time trial as the underdog but with her never say die attitude, I knew she would be a contender for the gold medal,” Bathurst’s Glen Carter, a state coach, said.
Backing up the next day in the 40km road race, Simons positioned herself near the head of the field for the bunch sprint as the finish line approached.
A crash saw three of the leading bunch fall, but the Bathurst talent avoided the drama to place sixth. She finished four seconds behind the winner.
Sunday’s criterium race was 30 minutes plus three laps and Simons was given the job of riding for fellow NSW talent Mullaney.
Her effort meant she did not contest the final sprint and rolled across the line in 24th, her team-mate narrowly beaten in the battle for gold by 225 Racing Cycle Club’s Niken Jefferies.
The gold medal ride capped off what has been an ultra impressive junior career for Simons – over the past four years she has picked up 10 national medals as well as a host of state crowns.
Her effort also sees her as the first national champion for the newly formed Western Region Academy of Sport cycling program.
Simons will now move up to the under 19 women’s division.