Sport

Michael Rice poised to defend U19 cycling road race title

Canberra teenager Michael Rice is hoping home town advantage will help him defend his road race title and qualify for his first world championship team in the under-19 nationals road race in the capital on Saturday.

The promising ACT Academy of Sport rider won the road race last year while juggling year 12, but missed selection for the junior world championships, something he is keen to make up for this year.

Under 19 Australian road race Champion Michael Rice at home in Ainslie.
Under 19 Australian road race Champion Michael Rice at home in Ainslie. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The three-day championships also double as the final selection event for the UCI Junior Road World Championships, giving Rice the opportunity to emulate the achievements of his older sister, Allison, who represented Australia twice at the junior world championships.

''I've got my last opportunity this year to get over there, so hopefully all goes well on Saturday and we'll see what happens,'' he said.

Having gone ''not fantastically'' in the three other selection events, he is hoping a back-to-back national title might be enough for his first international berth.

''I won [the national title] last year and didn't get selected, but I think if I was to win convincingly then I'd definitely be in the back of the selectors' minds … I just have to give it everything,'' he said.

''I think I've given myself every chance to try and defend the title – I'm pretty excited actually to be racing in the home town.''

The 18-year-old deferred starting university this year to concentrate on cycling as he prepares to make the step up to under-23s later this year, while competing in the National Road Series with the health.com.au team.

Michael Rice is hoping for for a home town advantage to defend his title on Saturday.
Michael Rice is hoping for for a home town advantage to defend his title on Saturday. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

After working with new coach Baden Burke for the last year, Rice believes he is in the right form to take out Saturday's road race from some ''pretty strong'' competition.

''It will just depend on the day. The weather could play a big part in it, especially how it's been the last week.''

Well-acclimatised to the chilly conditions, Rice believes the local knowledge of the Stromlo roads will also help.

''You can't really deny that it's an advantage,'' he said, noting that his competitors have another advantage.

''The bigger states, they're always tough because they've got teammates and they can work together to try to get someone up for the victory, but being from Canberra, being by yourself, you're kind of a bit outnumbered.

''You've got to take a bit of a gamble in some of your decisions and hope it works out for the best, so you need a bit of good luck on your side as well.''

There will be three other ACT riders, John Ashleigh, Michael Marek and Travis Elliott, in the road race, but the Vikings club members will not be racing in team with Rice.

Ashleigh and Marek both started their nationals campaign with the time trial on Friday, each finishing nearly 6 minutes outside the winner, South Australian Callum Scotson. 

The nationals will conclude with the criterium on Sunday.