Quickly snapped up by Rabobank's Continental squad after winning the epic Melbourne to Warrnambool in 2004, William Walker was one of the hottest properties on the amateur circuit. The Australian gradually progressed through the team's higher echelons by riding the 2006 Vuelta a España, but his transition to the professional ranks hasn't been entirely plain sailing as Cyclingnews' Paul Verkuylen found out.
By the end of 2005, William Walker already had the kind of results that would convince most other riders to turn professional - notably a second place at the U23 World Road Race Championships in Madrid. And despite comfortably seeing off all comers at the Australian Open Road Championships soon after, Walker elected to remain in the Continental ranks until part-way through the 2006 season, finally notching up his first full season as a pro last year.
Walker began the 2007 season in the same way that most professional cyclists do, at the team's official training camp. Usually a time to get re-acquainted with some old friends as well as meet some new ones, the camps also have a serious side as riders put the finishing touches to their pre-season training before heading off to their first races. However, Walker's experience was anything but enjoyable.
"I went to the training camp and got absolutely killed," he said.
From there, his season was a steady progression, but as so many other riders have experienced before him, making the grade in the professional ranks isn't nearly as straightforward as that of an amateur. "2007 was not the easiest year. It was fairly solid, but a bit intense," he admitted. "From [the training camp] it slowly improved. Every tour that I did, I got better, recovered and trained well and did well in the next one."