IT was the toughest conditions she's experienced in her short career, but Bronte Stewart displayed her trademark grit to hold off the challengers in the Hunter Junior Tour's under-17 women's road race on Sunday.
Riders were greeted by torrential rain for their return to competitive racing after the COVID-19 shutdown and it was the first time Stewart had raced in the rain since crashing at last year's Junior National Championships.
After finishing second to Sarah Cliff in the time trial and criterium, the Wagga-based 15-year-old timed her sprint to the line in the 60km race perfectly to turn the tables on her Illawarra Cycling Club teammate.
"It was shocking weather. It was a challenging road race in every single way possible," Stewart said.
"There was three of us that kept doing little attacks to keep it interesting. It was off and on, but challenging at the same time.
"Hayley Oakes (third placegetter and national mountain bike champion) kicked off the sprint a bit early, then when Sarah started sprinting with them I gave it my all."
It was a welcome boost in confidence for Stewart before the junior state and national road championships are held on consecutive weekends at Wagga in September.
The Hunter Tour is an avenue to collect points for selection in the state team, and Stewart is hopeful her home town provides better conditions than what greeted her on the Gold Coast last year.
"In my last race (nationals) it was raining and I crashed, it was interesting going into the same conditions again," she said.
"I didn't really think about it being on the bike, but afterward you think you experienced it again and got through it.
"Winning was a bit of a confidence boost, the nationals was a bit of a heartbreaker.
"It's good having the race in my backyard, I know the roads so I'll have the extra experience and knowledge of the course."
Bronte is the younger sister of emerging rider Myles, who signed his first professional deal with Nero Continental last year.
She said Myles is a strong sounding board as she looks to follow in his footsteps.
"The biggest thing he's told me is when you're hurting there's always another level you can push yourself to, it's the mental game you have to get over," she said.
"That's always in the back of my mind when I'm racing."