Southland's Matt Zenovich is set to make his mark at the 2016 Oceania Road Cycling Championships in Bendigo, Australia.
The 22-year-old is in his first season with the Avanti Isowhey squad and is hoping to make the most of his chances on the professional circuit.
But competition will be tough with a quality field of 122 elite and under-23 riders set to test themselves on the 180km course.
"The racing is a higher level than your Saturday club race," he said.
"It is all of the best riders from New Zealand and Australia competing for a championship title, so everyone is really keen for that top step on the podium."
Zenovich claimed fourth in his debut outing for the team in February's The Rev race, in Cambridge.
The event was won by New Zealand National Team's Dion Smith, after some strong work by Taylor Gunman, while Zenovich's teammate Mark O'Brien finished second.
"I came away with fourth place after a long and hot day out the front in the breakaway with Taylor Gunman and another strong rider Callum Gordon who was fifth the previous year," he said.
The under-23 rider is enjoying the relaxed environment and professionalism of his new team.
"The main difference is the Avanti team support staff are a lot easier to deal with and you never have issues," he said.
"The team is a big plus as well, the riders are all very relaxed when they are off the bike, but when they are on the bike they are focussed and thats the balance you need to be successful."
Plenty has changed since the former Tour of Southland sprint ace has raced in the Oceania champs.
"That was in Queenstown as a 17-year-old, so it has been a while and the game has changed since then," he said.
"The race is longer and I now race with the elite men over 180km."
Zenovich's Avanti teammates Sean Lake and Joseph Cooper finished first and second in Thursday's Oceania time trials.
There are also plenty of other southern riders in the event including Zenovich's teammate Liam Aitcheson from Alexandra, Southland's Tom Scully and 2015 Tour of Southland winner Brad Evans from Otago.
Photo and article courtesy Stuff