LAUNCESTON'S Jacob Birtwhistle is on track to make his first appearance in an open, elite International Triathlon Union World Cup event in China next week.
The 19-year-old Birtwhistle, who is now based in Woollongong under international coach Jamie Turner, will start in the world cup race in Chengdu, on Saturday, May 10.
This race will be only the third time Birtwhistle has tackled the standard or Olympic distance (1.5km swim, 40km bike,10km run) as an elite professional.
The other two races were the OTU Devonport Oceania Championships in February where he finished seventh overall and second in the under-23 age group and the ITU Mooloolaba Oceania Cup Triathlon, which he won in March.
``We leave next Wednesday for China and it's pretty exciting,'' Birtwhistle said.
``Not only is it this race but it is the start of my whole international season and I will be going straight from China over to Europe.
``That is kind of taking a bit of the focus off China, which is probably a good thing, so I don't get too stressed about it yet because I have other things on my mind as well.''
Birtwhistle said his training was going well but he did not consider he was in peak shape yet.
``I don't really want to be until the worlds at the end of August, which is all part of the plan and seems to be running smoothly at the moment,'' he said.
``Even being in good shape it would be a pretty big ask for me to win my first world cup event and I don't reckon there would be many people who have been on the podium at their first attempt.
``But that's obviously what I will be aiming for.''
The TIS scholarship holder said he struggled over the back end of the longer distance race at his first attempt in Devonport but was better prepared and stronger when he won in Mooloolaba and hoped to continue that improvement in China.
``With the group here it is a bit different to what I was doing back home but it all seems to be working well and I'm building up some strength at the moment, which is what I needed,'' Birtwhistle said.
After the world cup event in China, he will head to Spain with the Turner group of about 10 to 15 athletes where they will be based for a season of racing starting with the world duathlon championships.
Birtwhistle has been selected in the Australian team to contest the world junior championships in Edmonton, Canada, in mid-August and will return home in mid-September.