The story of young Australian riders making the transition from track racing to the elite road ranks is nothing new, but the latest batch of juniors from down under is travelling a slightly different path these days.
The practice of sending Australian juniors to UIV Cup races - the three-day, 'amateur version' of Six-Day races - is a fairly recent development, and one of those riders who has passed the short-track test is Alex Carver.
The 18-year-old from Sydney made a name for himself racing in the Memorial Noël Foré after he and fellow New South Welshman Scott Law won the event last year on the 166m Kuipke Velodrome in Gent.
Countrymen Leigh Howard and Glenn O'Shea won fans in Belgium thanks to their performances in this style of racing, with the pair returning to the senior Six-Day ranks this past European winter to hone their speed ahead of a busy road schedule as Howard embarks on a professional career with HTC-Columbia.
Now in his ninth year of riding, Carver is looking to follow a similar path, and his initial foray into the world of European racing was a significant and successful step in that direction. "The overseas racing was a great experience and it got me some exposure - it showed me what racing's like over there [Europe] as I progress in my career and what I can look forward to," said Carver.
His state and Memorial Noël Foré teammate Scott Law took out the scratch race at the recent Australian track national championships; Carver was pleased with the result and admitted that he was far from securing it himself, although he helped set up the victory in the early stages of the event.
"Coming back here to Aussie nationals I haven't returned in the best form but I've tried my best this week and I've seen my teammate getting up for a pretty big win, the biggest win of his career. That's an outstanding effort after coming back from injury the way he has," Carver added.
The other obvious ingredient for a professional road career is a supportive road team, which Carver has found in the Australian Institute of Sport outfit. "This year I'm with the Jayco Skins team and it's going to be a really big learning year for me; doing the road races in Italy and throughout Europe should make it tough for me but I'm really looking forward to it and with the support of the team I hope to develop into a better rider for the coming years," Carver explained.
"I've never been to Italy but I know there are a lot of climbs... and climbing doesn't really suit me but maybe some of the northern European races such as those in Belgium and the Netherlands would suit me better," he continued.
"Hopefully in the next few years I'll improve my climbing and get a bit stronger which will in turn help me out on the track a bit more."
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