Nathan Elliott (IsoWhey Sports Swiss Wellness) relied on an aggressively daring ride to make history Saturday at the Anchor Point Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic, taking his second consecutive win in the gruelling 277km event after winning the iconic 102-year-old Australian race for the first time last year.
Elliott's day off the front started as part of a six-rider breakaway that built a gap of five minutes on the peloton. Despite the large advantage, the escapees were brought back into the fold with 65km remaining to race, setting up an aggressive final hour or more of racing to the finish.
The 26-year-old Elliot was part of every attempted breakaway for the next 50km before he "went for broke" with 6km to go, repelling attacks from NSW Institute of Sport’s Tom Robinson to defeat runner-up Sam Welsford (WA Olympian), third-placed Tommy Nankervis (Stitch and Dart) and the rest of the bunch by two seconds on the line. Robinson held on for fourth.
"I really went for it at the 2km," Elliott said. "I dug deep, and gee, it was hard those last 300 metres up the hill and into a head wind, but I wanted it so bad. I knew nobody had gone back-to-back in this great race, and when I had it in my grasp I certainly wasn’t going to die wondering - I just gave it everything I had."
Elliott's winning gap was larger than the final two-second margin suggests, as the rider took advantage of the perfect conditions and healthy gap to enjoy in a long celebration to the line. Elliott has now won the event twice in just three tries after having crashed out of the race in his first attempt three years prior.
Welsford, meanwhile, almost pulled off the upset and proved track riders don't lack the endurance for a nearly seven-hour race. The team pursuit world champion and Rio silver medalist said he "wanted to have a crack at his legendary race" and was pleasantly surprised to be there in the finish.
"The two mountain climbs were really tough for big guys like me," Welsford said. "But when I re-joined the peloton and it became obvious it would be a sprint home I was rapt."
The sprint finish was marred when 20 riders at the head of the peleton crashed just 150m out, but Elliott was across the line by then as he wrote his name into the history books.