WHAT’S better than one national junior cycling champion hailing from Bathurst?
No, the answer’s not two. It’s three.
Tyler Puzicha (13), Kalinda Robinson (14) and Eliza Bennett (15) all returned home with gold medals around their necks after stunning performances at the recent Junior Track Nationals at Melbourne.
Puzicha picked up a gold medal in the Junior Women 15s sprint – breaking her own Australian 200m flying lap record in the process – and doubled her success with victory in the time trial.
It was almost a third gold for Puzicha when she came up one place shy in the keirin, beaten by former Bathurst rider Lucy Stewart.
Teamwork delivered Robinson and Bennett their gold medals, with the pair linking up to win the Junior Women 17s team sprint.
The Bathurst duo finished narrowly behind Victoria in the qualifying stage but got their revenge in the gold medal ride when they won a thrilling race by just 0.15 seconds.
Bennett came home with a medal of every colour after scoring silver in the keirin and defeating Robinson in the sprint’s bronze medal ride. She also finished with the fastest time in sprint qualifying (12.046).
Robinson may have missed out on the sprint medal but found herself on the podium in the 3km team pursuit with a bronze.
Puzicha’s 200m record mark of 12.576 seconds bettered the time of 12.689 she set in Sydney last year.
The 500m time trial mark of 37.412 from Puzicha put her just clear of Stewart with 37.602.
“I honestly didn’t see my record coming because the times before me were slow, since we were riding on the slower track. I went in there thinking I would get a 12.7 but I got a 12.5 so I was very happy with that,” she said.
“I didn’t quite get my 500m [time trial] record. I just missed out, but still won the gold.”
There was a scare for Puzicha when she went down heavily in the scratch race but she was cleared of injury.
“I’m alright now. It was just a bit of muscle,” she said.
“I saved myself, so I didn’t head my head, I hit my arm instead. I’m very lucky.”
After finishing just four hundredths behind Victoria in team sprint qualifying the Bathurst pair of Bennett and Robinson improved on their initial run by over three tenths of a second to win a cracking final in a time of 36.29.
“We train together pretty much every day so to see both of us get some great results feels amazing,” Robinson said.
“We were pretty nervous going into qualifying but came out second from that. We knew we could put a little bit more in and we did for the final.”
The team sprint gold was a great way for Bennett to end her time competing in the Junior Track Nationals, as she moves into under 19s races from next year.
“It’s a bit scary. I’ve been to four nationals in juniors but now I’m moving up and that means I’ll be racing with elite riders, like Olympians. I’m excited about it,” she said.
“Kalinda and I train together so much. Winning a race with her is amazing.
“It was so close. There was nothing in it. Once we crossed the line we still didn’t know if we’d won until a few minutes later because they needed to check the times.”