TEENAGE cyclist Calum Middleton hopes an adventure to the other side of the world will reap him a spot on a continental cycling team.
Middleton has traded the rural district of Corunnun, north-west of Colac, for bustling Belgium to develop his emerging talents in cycling-mad Europe.
The 18-year-old, who graduated from Trinity College last year, left Australia in April and has been racing amateur road races with Belgium-based English team Kingsnorth International Wheelers.
In an email from his base at Ghent, Middleton said Europe – and particularly its cycling culture – had been “amazing” and well worth the trip.
“I headed to Belgium to basically see what I could
do. Landing a spot on a continental team is the plan, just not for this year,” he said.
“This year is all about learning.”
Middleton is combining a gruelling training regime with experiencing the sights and culture of Belgium and Europe.
A typical month involves three weeks of heavy training – up to 25 hours on the bike – and a week of recovery – a further 12 hours – along with twice-weekly races.
The races, known as kermasse, have riders complete between 100 and 120 kilometres covering multiple laps of a course.
They are common throughout Western Europe and provide a pathway for aspiring riders like Middleton to make a name on the continental stage.
“My role in the team is to finish races. There are no roles like say in the Tour de France where everyone has a set job,” Middleton said.
“In the racing over here anything can happen, it’s not just the strong that win,” he said.
“In Belgium it’s all position, position, position. Racing with between 50 and 160 other guys, it makes it hard just to get to the front.”
And having come from a rural community, where potholes and rough roads are commonplace, the difference could not be more stark.
“The scene is so much better than Australia,” Middleton said.
“The whole country is full of purpose-built cycle paths and the drivers will let you cross the road, even if you’re supposed to be giving way to them,” he said.
“The races, they close the whole town down so we can have a safe race – each race is a rolling road closure, which means the lead car can tell the other cars to get off the road.”