McGrory aiming to restore Melbourne to Warrnambool's former glory

Through his various team, race and media roles in recent seasons, Scott McGrory has arguably seen more of the National Road Series (NRS) than most. With Cycling Victoria in need of a race director for the Melbourne to Warrnambool, it as no surprise that McGrory was approached to take on the role. The 102nd edition of the 277km race will be held October 14.

A successful track and road cyclist during his career, McGrory explained to Cyclingnews that he jumped at the opportunity presented by Cycling Victoria. 

"The fact that it is the Melbourne to Warrnambool, an event that obviously is historic on the Australian landscape for cycling and in my opinion, hasn't had the recognition that it globally, or even nationally, that it does deserve," McGrory said. "Anyway that I can do something to improve that, grow that and make the event as great as I think it should be, then I am quite happy to jump on board and help out in anyway I can."

First held in 1895, the race's first edition saw the riders head west from Melbourne to Warrnambool before a reversal to the original route in 1939. While the start location and route has changed since, Warrnambool remains the finishing location.

McGrory has initially been brought onboard for the 2017 edition with Cycling Victoria and Cycling Australia to conduct a "big review" of the race. The review will then determine McGrory's future role with the race.

"There has only been discussion about this year so let's wait and see. The first thing was make sure we get a race director in, and make the race happen," McGrory said.

"There has been general discussions, but Cycling Victoria really want to look at the race from every different angle and work out what they need to do, whether it is race route, the format, whatever it may be that they need to do to get it up to the level it really deserves and warrants.

Run as a UCI 1.2 race between 1997 and 2007, the 'Warny' is now held as an NRS event and along with the Grafton to Inverell, is one of two one-day races on the calendar. For McGrory, the race "should be at some kind of UCI level" but it's survival doesn't necessarily depend on an upgrade on its status.

"The challenge is, what time of the year do you have it? Do you keep it where it is now because even if it is at UCI level what international riders or teams would come," he said. "The globalisation of cycling and they way everybody views sport and news in general means that if you are not getting Chris Froome or Tour de France riders, then you are not going to get recognition anyway. It is not going to make the newspaper here if it's anyone other than someone who has won a stage of the Tour de France, etc. To get those kinds of riders, you probably need to make a change in the calendar or something would have to grow significantly, probably financially, to make it an incentive for those riders to come and race."

Although the 2017 start list features predominantly NRS teams, Trek-Segafredo's Koen de Kort will line out for the race as an individual, adding quality to a preliminary 120-rider strong peloton. Dutch by birth, de Kort spends half the year in Australia, and the race fits in perfectly with his schedule as McGrory points out.

"For Koen de Kort to ride, which is fantastic, he lives in Melbourne, it is the end of his season, it fits in perfectly off the back of end of season autumn classics and he can come home with good form to where he lives so it works really well for him," he said. "There are not too many big name riders in that situation."

For McGrory, de Kort is one of his picks for the win on Saturday, along with Brandon Davids from Oliver's Racing after his recent Battle Recharge and Jelajah Malaysia GC wins.

In future editions of the race to attract WorldTour riders or possibly teams, McGrory adds that "maybe if we can go the next level we can put on picturesque course, something that is a bit more meaningful and perhaps even taking it down the Great Ocean Road. Who knows?"

While the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race takes in the aforementioned scenic route along the coastline, McGrory suggests that the 'Warny' could also take in world's largest war memorial. Or alternatively, head inland via Ballarat which hosts the national championships in early-January.

"A change of start location and going via Ballarat or via the Great Ocean Road, these are all things we need to look at to make sure it does continue to grow," he said. "And not just happen. I don't want it to be 'it's that time of year again, look at the date, tick it off and we've had another Melbourne to Warrnambool'. I don't want to get to the 115th Melbourne to Warrnambool and it's just another race, it needs to be more than that. We have to consider how we improve it and how we get it to the level it deserves." 

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