Peloton Watch
  After strong second half of 2015 Anna-Leeza Hull ready for Richmond Worlds junior time trial  
  September 20th 2015  
  In 2014 Anna-Leeza Hull burst on to the Australian National Road series at the Mersey Valley Tour and was regularly mixing it with Australia's best before claiming the under 19 national time trial title and the bronze medal at the World Championships in Ponferrada, Spain.

Early 2015 may not have gone to plan for Hull with a number of injury set backs but a disciplined and focused attitude has seen the 18 year old find the level of form she has been chasing.

Hull's return to the Mersey Valley Tour was the start of things turning around. Climbing and time trialing her way to fifth overall and dominating the junior women's selection race. From there Hull became the first under 19 to claim back to back titles at the Australian Mountain Climb Championship before successfully defending her national title against the clock.

It was in August at the Tour of the King Valley that Hullclaimed her biggest success to date. A win in the opening stage time trial by 22 seconds on her nearest rival in an elite field. Beating Bridie O'Donnell and Taryn Heather, second and third at the elite Australian Championships in the process in a sign of her ability to compete with not just juniors but elite professionals.

With Australian and Oceania time trial titles to her name this season, Hull is focused on a strong performance at the World Championships in Richmond, Virginia this week. A world title and rainbow jersey is the goal but for Hull putting down her best performance is what is important.

PelotonWatch: Claimed your first Oceania title back in February in the time trial. What did it mean to you?

Anna-Leeza Hull: Going into the time trial at Oceania's, I had had some of the worst luck in my lead up. The three weeks in the lead up I had only ridden 21 hours with my longest ride being the day before my TT. It was a short 60km going over the TT course three times on both my road and time trial bike. I had huge expectation on myself to perform but I knew I had next to no form and the course wasn't to my strengths. I was happy to pull off the win, but it definitely wasn't one of my most exciting victories. It was one of those bike races where you just have to focus on the positive as much as possible and take as many opportunities to learn from the experience I had had.

PW: Had some illness and injury issues missing some racing including the Women's Tour of New Zealand. Bit of a set back after a strong start to the year?

ALH: Overall, I may have gotten a few good results on paper in the start of the season, but I definitely didn't feel any form. I had setback after setback in the start of my season including severe dehydration in a training ride with what I thought was also a combination of food poisoning from milk but rather finding out later that it was actually a severe allergic reaction, crashing in Cadel's race five days later and re-injuring my right elbow and having palpitations from the stress, and then competing in Oceania's took a lot of mental strength and determination to get myself there. I rode on natural ability rather than hard work and training which I was definitely not comfortable doing and ended up having to withdraw from the Women's Tour of New Zealand because my fitness was so low and I needed some time to recover properly. It was a tough decision at the time especially with all the support I had to get there, but I know now I made the right decision.

PW: Top junior in the TT and both road stages at Mersey Valley Tour and also finished fifth overall. After crashing out on the final stage last year how important was it for you to come back finish top junior and fifth overall?

ALH: It was really important to me to perform well given I crashed out last year. It was a difficult start to the tour when the U19 Australian women, including myself, as a worlds selection race had to compete on junior gearing. It was a fast course and there happened to be perfect conditions on the day, which meant they would be a huge disadvantage, particularly for my physiology. I knew my form had increased significantly since my last race, but I still had had many smaller setbacks and so much to work on to be at the fitness level I wanted to be at to be more competitive in the NRS. I took a lot of positives from Mersey Valley and many things that I wanted to improve on to increase my overall skills and form for the rest of the season.

PW: Successfully defended your TT and overall win at the Mountain Climb National Championships. What did it mean becoming the first person to win the under 19 title back to back?

ALH: The Australian Mountain Climb champs are probably my favourite race of the season and I love going down and racing in Bright. It's a pretty exciting though being the first to win back to back titles and also prove in the time trial that I was the strongest rider there. I was happy and proud to finish my final race up Mt Buffalo on such a positive note.

PW: Last year you surprised yourself winning the Australian time trial title. This year you headed in as the favourite what did it mean to defend it?

ALH: By July I knew my form was coming along so well with my main focus being worlds. I was mostly excited once I finished to reflect on how far I have come since last year. I rode an almost perfect time trial when it came to my technique and many of the things I knew out there I would never have even thought about at nationals the previous year. It gave me a lot of confidence to know my foundation for worlds was being built so strongly and even more grateful to Specialized Australia for my TT rig and NSWIS for a great set of wheels. To defend my title was a bonus and made the moment even more special.

PW: What does it mean to be named in your second Australian team?

ALH: I was much more proud this year to be selected in the Australian team. I learnt in my experience at worlds last year what an honour it really is to represent my country. I couldn't wait to get over here and share some new memories with a new group of athletes.

PW: Do you think the experience of last year will be beneficial this year?

ALH: I am currently in the US doing my final prep for my time trial on Monday. So far, my experience has gone such a long way. I knew coming in how things work this year that I didn't last year. These things include what to expect when it comes to training, how and when we eat, the way my bike set up needs to be, knowing and trusting the mechanics to take care of my bikes, how to work with the staff, my coach and other athletes, travel and what I need to do for myself to put myself in the best possible position to perform. I have been much more comfortable this year and have settled in really well. I know what to expect of myself as well when it comes to racing with my own nerves and the tension that is in the bunch that will also go a long way as well. I feel like I am in much more control and that only comes from experience and last year I was lucky enough to have that and can now make sure I am ready to go when it comes to race day.

PW: After claiming the bronze medal at the World Championships in the time trial last year do you have higher expectations this year?

ALH: I have very high expectations on myself... To do the best I can. Results are an extra bonus, I am desperate to win a world championship but whether that is this year or in the future, I love what I am doing and will continue to strive to be the best I can. Whatever happens, I'll be proud of what I have achieved and everything I have learnt and done to get here.

PW: Won the opening stage time trial at Tour of the King Valley beating a lot of strong riders including Bridie O'Donnell and Taryn Heather, second and third at elite nationals. How did it feel to take the win from such a strong field?

ALH: It is the best result I have ever gotten. I worked so hard to get that, I knew that I had really good form, I felt energetic and excited that morning and I finished it off perfectly. It gives me a lot of confidence moving into the elite ranks that I am capable of performing with some of Australia's best time trialists, particularly at next years national championships where I have high hopes to perform well in both the road race and time trial.

PW: Happy with how your preparation for Worlds is going?

ALH: After Sam Miranda, I had confirmation and a lot of belief in myself that my training was paying off and all the hard work and discipline. I took a few easy days following the tour to adapt the huge load I had just completed and to refocus on the quality of training in the lead up to worlds. I am confident in my abilities and thanks to my coaches and the staff at NSWIS, I trust and know that we have all worked together so well to have me in my best form yet and more importantly, belief that the as I keep progressing and look at the 'big picture' the future it definitely a bright one.
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