WAGGA Cycling Club coach Cameron Oke is convinced Zac Barnhill will handle a bigger "target on his back" after securing a top five general classification finish in his first overseas tour.
The 17-year-old finished fifth as part of a Cycling NSW under-19 team riding in the five-stage Tour de DMZ in Korea, part of the UCI Men Juniors Nations' Cup.
Despite a crash in the final kilometres of the last stage on Tuesday, the Riverina Anglican College student still improved from sixth to fifth with rules preventing a time penalty if a crash occurs in the last 5km.
Barnhill finished 12 seconds behind the winner, Finn Veeti Vainio, with his best result seventh over the 113km stage two.
Oke said the result surpassed their wildest expectations and expects Barnhill to now come under more scrutiny from rivals at the national championships at Ballarat in January.
"I think everyone's expectations were a top 50, what he's done on a multi stage tour is incredibly difficult," Oke said.
"I'm sure come nationals he'll have a target on his back from a lot of competitors, but I think he'll be able to cope with what's thrown at him and the national course will suit him to a tee.
"I'm sure Zac will be looking for a podium finish. He's growing as a rider, and this week is going to be the massive confidence booster he probably needed."
Oke said Barnhill was never a standout through the younger grades but is earning the rewards for hard work.
"You only have to see the amount of kilometres and dedication he puts in, he deserves everything that comes in his direction," Oke said.
"He does a lot of lonely kilometres, up to 150 a day and can be doing that himself or at home on a stationery trainer.
"In the under-17s he was coming out of the top-15 or top-20, nowhere near a podium but he just loves the sport.
"He loves hurting himself, hopefully this is just one stepping stone in a long career for him."
Cycling NSW is giving under-19 riders more opportunities to prove themselves internationally through their endurance initiative.
Barnhill told The Daily Advertiser in June he didn't harbour huge expectations in Korea.
"It will be a good experience. I'm not really focused on results, but it will be good to race against a bunch of riders that's a lot bigger than you usually get in Australia," Barnhill said.
"Hopefully after Year 12 I'll go overseas for half a year or so to race and train, and see how I go from there.
"I want to eventually make it on the big stage but that's a few years away, so I'll try and stay consistent and keep training."