Glenbrook's Luke Brame set the wheels in motion for another tilt at representing Australia in mountain biking by securing third place in the U19 men's Cross Country Olympic (XCO) at the national championships on March 14.
The Year 12 St Columba's High School student achieved his best result at a nationals by crossing the finish line on the tough four-lap course in Bright, Victoria, in one hour, nine minutes and nine seconds.
Brame's final lap was quicker than his first and third, and that endurance proved crucial, helping him edge out Alex Lack (fourth) by 0.8 seconds and finish just 3.5 seconds behind Bryan Dunkin (second). Race winner Liam Jeffries finished in 1:07:55. Almost three minutes separated Brame and Lack from the rest of the 20-strong field.
Brame said the rugged course - which saw several riders in the men's and women's elite races crash or fall the day before - was testing but suited his technical ability.
"It was a challenging course - really rocky and steep in some sections," Brame said.
"You can train for that to a certain point, but it's when you get to do five or six practice runs on the course before the race that you work out your strategy.
"In the tight bits you do get stuck behind other riders and need to be patient and wait until it starts to open up again before making your move.
"In the end there wasn't much in it between second and fourth places and it was a sprint finish for third and fourth."
Brame trained for this race since last October, hoping to better his fourth place at last year's nationals.
"My goal is to get picked in the Australian U19s team for the Worlds (UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Andorra) in October, so I really wanted to get on the podium at Bright to give me the best chance.
"That team will be finalised soon, but third place means I should be in it."
Last year the 17-year-old was selected as a reserve in the Australian U19s team at the World Championships held in Hafjell, Norway, but ended up taking his place at the starting line.
"That was my Worlds debut and I finished 73rd in a field of almost 120, which I was happy with. I'd just like to improve on that if I get the chance.
"I'm fitter now and a lot better technically, but I can still work more on my power and endurance, especially on uphill sections."
Brame's impressive result at Bright followed a successful, five-round National Summer Series in which he won his first XCO race and finished second overall.
His immediate goals before the World Championships are to do well in his half-yearly HSC exams and in a mountain biking national junior development squad training camp in Brisbane.