MARYBOROUGH'S Jay McCarthy has ridden his way into joining some elite company.
The 19-year-old has won the 2011 Darren Smith Memorial Award for road cycling, something Tour de France star and Olympian Robbie McEwen won back in 1994.
Darren Smith was an Olympian and one of Australia's most promising road cyclists until he tragically died in a training accident in 1992.
The award is presented annually to the under-21 cyclist who performed best in national and international events.
For McCarthy to win the award, which was presented to him at the Australian Institute of Sport awards dinner in Canberra, is a remarkable feat when you consider he only started cycling competitively six years ago.
It also caps off what has been a memorable year for the former Aldridge State High School student.
A member of the Jayco-AIS team, McCarthy spent most of the year riding in Europe.
He made a big impression.
One of the many highlights was when he won the right to wear a prized yellow jersey for four stages in the Internationale Thüringen-Rundfahrt in Germany.
He also made his debut for the Australian under-23 team during the 2011 UCI Road World Championships in Denmark.
McCarthy, the 2010 Australian junior road race champion, said it had certainly been a year to remember.
"I honestly had no idea that I was in the running to win this award," McCarthy, a member of the Australian under-19 team last year which finished second in the UCI Junior Road World Championships in Italy, said.
"This is my first year in the age group so it (winning the award) didn't come into consideration at all.
"Saying that, to have won it is a huge privilege and a real honour.
"It's something I'll never forget because so many great cyclists have won it before me."
But winning the prestigious award was not the only thing McCarthy has had to celebrate of late.
He has just signed another 12 month contract to ride for the Jayco-AIS team, something which means he'll be heading back to Europe early next year.
It comes as no surprise that McCarthy said he was feeling pretty good about life right now.
"I really am living my dream - there is no doubt about it," he said.
"I have to pinch myself at times to make sure it's for real."