TEENAGER James Verhoef wants to complete the iconic Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic when he becomes eligible in three years' time.
The Port Fairy-based competitor will have an understanding of the gruelling task at hand when he enters the 2026 edition.
He was the youngest cyclist to take part in Big Ride for a Big Life on February 24, aged just 15.
The fundraising initiative involved riders working together to complete the 293.1-kilometre course.
Verhoef said the nine-hour journey was a mental and physical challenge but gave him confidence he could endure long distance races - like the 260-odd kilometre Melbourne to Warrnambool - in coming years as he strives to take his cycling to the next level.
"It was the first Big Ride I've done and I hope to keep doing it over the next few years too," he said.
"The heat hit a few people but we kept pushing through it. I got to the end and still felt all right.
"I hadn't busted myself, I wasn't too hurt."
Verhoef's previous longest trek was from Warrnambool to Geelong with dad Geoff.
"The bunches made it (the Big Ride) a bit easier, having a group to ride with made it a bit easier," he said.
The Emmanuel College student started riding competitively three years ago.
He has training plans with South West Academy of Sport and Royal Bikes and enters Victorian competitions as a way of challenging himself.
"I enjoy the thrill of racing against others, going hard and winning as well," Verhoef said.
"A lot of my training is solo.
"The weather doesn't help - a lot of the time it will be extremely hot or very cold and you'll just end up on the (indoor) trainer."
Verhoef, who clocks up to 300 kilometres of training each week, has long-term goals in road racing.
The sprint specialist is eligible for the Port Campbell Handicap, which is on the Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Festival calendar, next year when he becomes eligible for the under 19 category.
The Melbourne to Warrnambool classic 2026 field could feature his name as that is the year he becomes eligible, age wise, to compete in that race.
Verhoef is aiming to perform strongly at this year's state and national titles as he's "fully committed to racing".
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