CAMPERDOWN teenager Bailey McDonald is preparing for the toughest challenge of his fledgling cycling career after committing to a high-calibre race on his doorstep.
McDonald, 18, will make his Powercor Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic debut on Saturday.
"Growing up in south-west Victoria and specifically Camperdown watching the race go through town for years and watching locals do it means it's certainly a race that inspires you," he told The Standard.
"As a cyclist, it probably doesn't get any bigger in our area.
"This is essentially our backyard and once we hit the Timboon area, they are the roads you train on almost every day.
"I have a lot of local support coming down to cheer me on."
McDonald, who wants to turn professional, comes from a sporting-mad family.
Dad Deiter and older brother Kurt are triathletes.
"We have a rich family history in cycling too with my uncle (Rick Saunders) actually doing the Warrnie a couple of times and my poppy (Harry Saunders) was a very good cyclist himself," he said.
"I love the freedom which comes with cycling and the sense of adventure.
"I dabbled in other sports for a while but found cycling in the end. I find it a very rewarding sport."
McDonald, who is moving to Brisbane to train alongside his brother, is aware of the obstacles he'll face in the classic.
The 267-kilometre trek is more than 120 kilometres longer than he's completed in race mode.
"I'd like to be one of the first young riders and learn as much as I can," he said.
He feels well prepared, having implemented a thorough training regime.
"It's been a lot of six-hour days (on the bike). I had my last big day on Sunday which was a 210km training ride," McDonald said.
The teenager will compete as an individual but hopes to earn a contract with a race team in coming months.
"The opportunities are starting to increase now and I am starting to see the last two years of work come to fruition," he said.
"It is good to be in Melbourne and competitive on the crits scene down there and I had a pretty good nationals campaign with a couple of 20th place finishes there (in my age group).
"I have the power and physiology but it's just about getting race skills now.
"It is a very big goal in the next 12 months. Hopefully come October, November when they renew teams, I get a contract."
McDonald believes moving north and learning from his sibling will fast-track his progress.
"Kurt has helped me a lot, there's no denying that," he said.
"He's taught me so much about sport and although we're in different sports now, it'll be great to be back together.
"We are both trying to get to the top level in our sports."
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