ETHAN Watt didn't expect to have a target on his back so early in his cycling career.
But the Kildare Catholic College student will look to embrace being the hunted when he looks to protect his Tour de Riverina standings lead at Sunday's Butch Menz Memorial.
The 76km classic, run over two loops from the Collingullie Hotel, out towards The Rock and back, is the fourth stage of the tour.
After giving up soccer, the former Wagga City Wanderers player was enticed back into cycling for the series-opening Uranquinty Classic in late February, which the 17-year-old won.
That result came as a shock for the teenager, who has since backed it up with seventh in the Ray Jarrett Classic at Cobram and second in the Dean Carter Memorial at Griffith in the most recent stage in early May.
"It (first stage win) was surprising, I didn't have too many expectations," he said.
"It was my first race, I stuck with the bunch and the opportunity presented itself to break away with another guy and it worked out.
"I've been pretty happy with it the improvement is coming. I'm pleased with the progress so far.
"It's a bit of pressure now to keep going well and keep the lead."
Watt progressed to NSW Country level in soccer, playing under-18s and under-23s for the Wanderers, but is enjoying being his own boss in cycling.
"There was a lot of travelling and I had some injuries, you can control how hard you want to go," he said.
Watt leads the series standings with 29 points, followed by Tolland clubmates Aaron Seaman (21) and Daniel Addison (17), with Griffith's Malcolm Blake (16) in fourth place.
The Butch Menz Memorial will begin at 10am on Sunday, with the start-finish line about 500m past Collingullie Hotel in the direction of The Rock.
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