WAGGA cyclist Myles Stewart will set his sights on victory at the national championships after falling just short of a breakthrough National Road Series stage win in Victoria on the weekend.
The 20-year-old was edged out by half a metre by Canberra's Matthew Rice in the first stage of the Tour of the King Valley, where cyclists rode the Winton Raceway course for 90 minutes, plus three laps.
Stewart will tackle the under-23 race in Ballarat with Team Rauland full of confidence after recently returning from his first overseas multi-stage tour in China.
After finishing top ten at nationals last year, he believes he is better placed to have a shot at being crowned champion.
"I'm looking to hopefully go top three or even win, that'd be the goal," the Tolland Cycling Club member said.
"Last year I got top ten and got a taste for it, but I'm way fitter this time around.
"It (Tour of the King Valley finish) was very close and I'm pretty happy, all my training is going to plan and I took some form from that 11-stage tour in China.
"That was my best NRS result so far and I was content, even though in the back of my head I know I could've won it.
"Now I've got to keep a good base, keep on improving and see if I can grab a win in two weeks at the Tour of Gippsland."
Stewart said the challenges China presented, including stifling humidity, adjusting to different tactics and working as a team through multiple stages, was the ideal preparation for the nationals from January 8-12.
"It's an uphill finish (similar to King Valley), a hot dog course around the streets," Stewart said.
"When we first got off the plan it (humidity) hit us. I went alright but the food is different and being the first time overseas, it's all experience for next time.
"Over there they're more tactical and use their body more to push you around.
"I've brought that into racing back here and it gave me more confidence to back myself."
Stewart said his tentative goal is to eventually return to Asia and try produce good enough results to attract the eye of professional teams.
"I suppose the next step before you go pro is to do well in Asia and if you do that, you can get picked up in massive teams and start making a living out of it."
Stewart's younger sister Bronte also won time trial bronze at last month's junior road national championships on the Gold Coast after claiming the state title earlier in the year.