HE didn't get a podium, but Luke Tuckwell certainly got a lot of respect with the show of strength that earned him fourth place in the junior men's road race at the Road National Championships on Saturday.
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The Bathurst Cycling Club star was the most aggressive rider in the final two laps of the gruelling 104.4 kilometre race at Buninyong, making an attempt to go solo to the finish line.
Though that plan didn't work out, even after Tuckwell was caught by the lead bunch he managed to muster another effort in the sprint to only just miss the podium in the battle for under 19s glory.
It was only about a bike leg that separated Tuckwell from victor Cameron Rogers after two hours, 46 minutes and seven seconds of racing.
"It was a bit bitter-sweet, but you know I pretty much rode the perfect race, I couldn't do much more. I risked my chances in order to win, but I'm happy with fourth, I can't be disappointed," Tuckwell said.
"I was absolutely cooked, I attacked with five kay to go and only got caught with a kay-and-half left, so it was pretty remarkable to pull off a sprint after literally just being caught.
"My legs were screaming at me, I'd attacked big the last two times up the climb just to try and crack everyone, which in the end I'd say was quite successful. But I had absolutely nothing left.
"I risked losing in order to win with that attack and I still came out with a really good result at the end. It was nice to know I had the capability to do that after such a hard race, that I could still dig that deep."
Before Tuckwell even lined up for Saturday morning's road race, one that featured nine laps of a 11.6km course, he had a hurdle to overcome.
The Orange native had been questioning himself after what he felt was a disappointing 13th place in Wednesday's individual time trial.
"I was not happy after the TT, I was expecting a lot better, it was a really average day for myself," Tuckwell said.
"I sort of spent the last couple of days questioning my form and how the road race was going to go, but fortunately I was able to put that behind me ... It was nice to see I could bounce back from the disappointment of having quite an average ride."
Tuckwell made what he called "definitely a tactical decision" to sit out Friday night's criterium so he could put his full focus into the road race.
He spent much of the race sitting in the peloton following the moves, eating and drinking so that when the time came to attack, he'd have the energy to do so.
"It's such a race of attrition that I knew it was going to be the last three laps where I'd make a move," he said.
On the penultimate lap Tuckwell attacked over the climb and while he was not able to establish a breakaway then, it gave him confidence to attack again and try and solo away for the win.
Once more it was on the climb that Tuckwell launched his attack and though he only managed to be the third rider to reach the top, he remained aggressive and made another move.
He did manage to get off the front and while caught as the finish line neared, instead of dropping back through the bunch Tuckwell found one last effort in his legs.
"I tried, it unfortunately didn't work over the top of climb and nearing the finish I was running through the scenarios of 'How on earth was I actually going to try and win this?'," he said.
"I figured attacking in the university section which is extremely technical was my best bet and it nearly worked. So I can hold my head high knowing that my race plan pretty much worked."
Though not able to win, Tuckwell said that victor Rogers and runner-up Oscar Chamberlain - two riders he's been competing against since he was eight - deserved their success.
In turn that Canberra Cycling Club duo praised the Bathurst rider and Tuckwell also pleased officials at his new team, Australian powerhouse InForm TMX Make.
"The whole team were super happy for me, they were super impressed with the way I rode," the Bathurst Cycling Club talent said.
"My really good mates got first and second and they said 'You were the one who animated the race, you were the one who made it hard, we're surprised that you didn't get away'.
"So I can be extremely happy in that I showed I was probably the strongest out there, it didn't end up going completely to plan, but they showed they had respect for me and the team was super stoked as well.
"It's shaping up to be quite a big year for me, so it's gotten off to the right start."
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