National road cycling champion Courteney Lowe is no newcomer to adversity.
The 22 year old professional from Tauranga recovered from surgery on a narrowed artery in her hip last year and three months later upset more fancied riders to claim the New Zealand Elite title.
Lowe will have to overcome a mystery foot injury that has plagued her for the last three months if she is to defend her title at the Calder Stewart Elite National Championship in Christchurch this weekend.
She suffered the injury during a spell tramping in the mountains at her US-base in Bend, Oregon during her second season riding professionally for the American team Optum Pro Cycling.
"I’m training hard and some days are good and on other days the foot plays up. We’ve not managed to get to the bottom of the problem yet," Lowe said.
The talented young rider, who made her debut for New Zealand in 2010, knows she won’t be able to sneak up on the competition in the 120km race on the Cashmere Hills circuit on Saturday.
"I had not ridden much before last year’s race and just had a great day. After the surgery on the hip, no-one really thought I would be a factor," Lowe said.
"There’s going to be more pressure on this year going in as the defending champion."
Lowe said her experiences with Optum Pro Cycling, set-up by former Olympian Cath Cheatley, has improved her significantly as a rider. She has played a domestique role with the US team which finished second team overall in the US calendar series, after finishing top in 2012.
"It’s been a fantastic experience and I am looking forward to going back as I’ve been signed up again for 2014."
It has also been an honour competing in the national champion’s jersey for the major US races.
Lowe is hoping her injured foot will behave itself at the weekend to kick-start what she hopes will be a huge year.
"To be fair I am not going into the race with any expectations at all. I guess the same could be said of last year but this time I am just not sure if my ankle will hold out.
"I have been training hard for it. I hope I can have a good race and I have this injury sorted soon.
"This year is big for me. My main goal is to ride well and earn a place in the New Zealand team for the Commonwealth Games."
Lowe is picking Tour de Vineyards winner Reta Trotman or experienced Olympian Jo Kiesanowski as the favourites for the honours on Saturday, with professionals Emily Collins, Linda Villumsen and Kate Chilcott also likely to be factors.
The championships begin with the time trials at Lincoln College on Friday, with women’s road race over 120.5kms on Saturday comprising eight laps with six climbs of the infamous Dyers Pass.
The elite and under-23 men’s race on Sunday is 12 laps in total for 183.7kms, starting with the usual full lap on the flat before 10 circuits up the Dyers Pass climb and a final flat lap to the finish.
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