HE IS the fresh-faced young gun who hopes to follow the path ridden by 2017 Tour de France debutant and fellow Maryborough product Jay McCarthy to the world's biggest cycling competitions.
Bailey Walters has joined some of Australia's best road cyclists in Ballarat for the Cycling Australia Road National Championships.
Walters finished 16th in his first race in the under-23 men's division, 11 seconds behind Wagga Wagga-born winner Cameron Scott.
Fellow Fraser Coast Cycling Club rider Thomas Hodge was 42nd, 19 seconds behind the pace.
For Walters, the RoadNats is a prime opportunity for the 18-year-old to see where he stands against Australia's best U23 riders. When the Chronicle spoke to Walters yesterday, he was mentally preparing for his first race in the new age group.
The largely unknown nature of his fellow riders' skill and ability borne from a lack of experience against those names means his primary goal is to improve his own times and ability.
"I don't really know as its my first year of U23s," Walters said. "I'll do the best I can to try and ride a strong race. I'll be happy with any result, I'll just do my best."
Walters started as a mountain bike and BMX specialist, before he transitioned to the road.
It was in his second year of competing in the U17s that he "knuckled down", as the prospect of a professional cycling career grew clearer.
"I started to knuckle down then and in the U19s I really took it seriously," the Cobra9 rider said. "I think it was just because I was seeing the improvements. I was fourth in the Queensland State Criterium in my second year of 17s and I was really keen to see how far I could go."
One of Walters' long-term goals is to emulate the success of fellow Heritage City product McCarthy.
McCarthy started his career on the same streets as Walters and other FCCC members, and rode his way to the highest stages.
Now 25, McCarthy rides for BORA-Hansgrohe, alongside world champion Peter Sagan, and Germans Marcus Burghardt and Rudiger Selig.
He rode in his first Tour de France last year, where he finished 94th overall.
He finished third in the Tour Down Under in 2017, one position better than his 2016 result, and won the young rider classification.
Walters has trained with the Agrupacio Ciclista Andorrana rider when he visits the region, gaining an unprecedented insight from one of the best Australian road cyclists.
Fellow Fraser Coast product Dylan Newbery will compete alongside McCarthy in the elite men's races.
The RoadNats continue with individual time trials and road races until Sunday.