Nineteen-year old Lucy Garner hopes to be on the elite podium finish at the British Cycling National Road Championships in Monmouthshire on 29 June.
A hot favourite for the under-23 title, the double junior world champion from Leicestershire is aiming for a top-three finish in Abergavenny but acknowledges that with a top-quality field and tough course, the task will be far from easy.
Garner’s second year on the Giant Shimano (formerly Team Argos Shimano) squad has been one of development, punctuated by an excellent showing in the Friends Life Women’s Tour, where she took seventh overall against world-class opposition.
Following the Women’s Tour however, Garner had a two-week setback due to illness and missed some key target races. But with her form back on track, Garner’s run-in to the national championships road race looks ideal.
"It was a bit of a shame because after the Tour was my peak races but unfortunately I wasn't fit enough to really perform then. But everything's back on track now and it's going really well,” said Garner.
"I'm not actually racing that much up until the nationals so it's just really training and some local crits," said the rider who, from her base in Holland, enjoys a profusion of high-quality local races throughout the season.
The double junior road world champion is amongst the favourites for the under-23 title along with national circuit race champion Hannah Barnes but the Giant Shimano rider hopes to be in the mix with the elites.
"I'd love to be top three in the seniors so that is an aim - to get top-three," said Garner, whose hopes are tempered with pragmatism.
“Last year was pretty tough for me and I didn't get the result I was really hoping for so this year I'm just going to go into it with an open mind really,” she said.
"You never know how it goes at a national race because it's just a one-off and for me it's also going to be hard because I'm the only Giant Shimano rider.”
For a lone-rider without team support, following potential race-defining moves is critical, as Garner explained. "If you can get in a good move then it can take you all the way to the finish.
“So for me it would be good if I can try and go in the moves that I think are going to stick but it's really hard to try and chase everything down on your own.”
The parcours for the elite women’s race is one of two halves, with a long, hilly lap of 72-kilometres followed by four laps of the 7.2-kilometre finishing circuit around Abergavenny; Garner hopes that this kermesse-style finish my sway the odds in her favour.
“I think the smaller laps will definitely suit me more but it's really hard to say,” she said. “So I'm just going to hope to follow as much as I can and hopefully be there to sprint it out at the finish.
"Hopefully everything will be quite relaxed on the big lap and then the real racing might kick-in on the smaller laps.”
While Armitstead is favourite to retain her national title, Garner acknowledged that there were others in the field that could spring a few surprises, most notably 2012 champion Sharon Laws, who rides alongside Hannah Barnes in the UnitedHealthcare squad.
“If Sharon Laws can get away and just keep going with all the lumps it's going to be pretty suited to her,” said Garner.
“There are quite a few who are going pretty well at the moment like Katie Archibald - if she can get away then she's strong enough to power away to the finish."
The British Cycling National Road Championships take place on 26 and 29 June in Monmouthshire, South Wales. The elite men’s, elite women’s and under-23 men’s time-trials take place on 26 June while the elite men’s and women’s road races take place in 29 June.