The SEW-Eurodrive Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic will resemble a Commonwealth Games road race when it gets underway on Saturday with riders from New Zealand, Scotland, England and all the Australian states vying for victory. One slight difference, though, is the distance of 299 kilometres, making it the longest one-day race on the UCI sanctioned calendar.
Starting as favourite for the 91st edition of 'The Warny' is New Zealander Hayden Roulston, a silver medallist at the 2006 Commonwealth Games who recently showed an encouraging return to form at the World Road Championships in Stuttgart. Others to watch out for are 25 year-old Scotsman Evan Oliphant, who zoomed into eye-catching form with victory in the Tour of Tasmania's tough Launceston-Grindelwald stage earlier this month and also Englishman Kristian House.
"I'd like to win it, to be quite honest," the genial House said. "The Warrnambool is an event that fascinates me. It depends how you feel on the day, but a lot can go wrong over 300 kilometres."
An experience Australian contingent will be spearheaded by 2006 runner-up David Pell, prolific placegetter Tim Decker, Victorian Institute of Sport riders Richard England and Patrick Shaw, and evergreen Queenslander Cameron Hughes, winner of the 2007 Grafton to Inverell race.
Race director John Craven described the 155-strong field, which includes former world triathlon champion Emma Carney, as one of the most impressive in modern times. "Trying to pick the winner is a raffle," he said. "It will be like watching a Commonwealth Games road race. The attrition rate will probably be high but the contest will be superb."
The $17,000 classic will start at 7.30am at Sanctuary Lakes resort on Saturday, October 27, finishing about 3.30pm in Warrnambool's Raglan Parade.
Three recreational rides of 71, 120 and 168 kilometres are being held as part of the classic on Sunday, October 28. All rides start at 9am at Warrnambool's Flagstaff Hill. Entries will be taken on the start line from 7.30 - 8.30am.