The penultimate event on the National Road Series, the Melbourne to Warrnambool is Australia's oldest event, and the longest in the Southern Hemisphere (second only to Milan-San Remo). A 200-strong field will have to contend not only with the 262 kilometre distance, but also the blustery conditions, that are synonomous with this part of Victoria.
Nathan Haas (Genesys) and Steele Von Hoff (Genesys), fresh off success at the 1.HC Japan Cup, headline the start list, and both will be looking to return Genesys to winning ways in Australia when they line-up for the roll-out on Saturday. The list of contenders is long though with Sam Rutherford and Chris Jory (BikeBug.com), Chris Jongewaard and Luke Davison (Budget Forklifts) along with Matthew Lloyd and last week's Grafton animator Mark O'Brien all potential victors.
The participation of Rhys Gillett is also an interesting one with the Victorian without a team for next year and an unquestionably talented young rider.
Genesys manager Andrew Christie-Johnson believes that with Haas and Von Hoff likely to be heavily marked it may open the door for other riders on his team to shine.
"I would not be surprised if someone like Anthony [Giacoppo] gets in a winning move," Christie-Johnson said. "He is quite a talent and will be ready to step up next year once we let him loose. He has been on the fringe of it all year, doing a lot of work for Haasy and the others."
"Our boys are pretty fired up for a big crack at the Warrny. It’s a long day but it may all get down to who has the legs to get away and stay away."
Trent Wilson meanwhile told Cyclingnews that he was cautiously optimistic after Chris Jory's impressive return to the Australian domestic circuit continued last weekend at Grafton.
"Personally I think the Grafton to Inverell is a more difficult race, but the distance is the thing that will be the real key. I think some of the younger guys, and the guys that have only done the National Road Series events (which are generally less than 130km) may struggle.
"But guys like Jory who've been in Europe doing a block of racing will have no problems. Sam [Rutherford] rode very much within himself last week [at Grafton] and I think he'll be a threat as well.
"Genesys are bringing their A-team which will make things tough, but I'm certainly confident in the riders we have here."
As with any race of 250 plus kilometres, what appears a simple route to navigate is compounded by the distance. Seven hours and more on a bike is a long time, and make the flat profile far more complex. Eating and drinking well will be the main mountains riders have to overcome, as a lost bidon, or an unnecessary effort on the course could be a potential winner's undoing as they approach the finish in Warrnambool.
The climb at Camperdown, coming after close to 200 kilometres has often historically been decisive but the rises at Garroc and through Panmure could prove the undoing of riders with fatiguing legs.
The finish in Warrnambool is in theory a sprinters paradise but don't be surprised to see a rider finish here solo at the end of a tough day of racing.
Melbourne to Warrnambool profile
Image courtesy of Cycling Profiles/cyclingprofiles.com.au
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