MORE than 230 cyclists will today tackle a tougher new route for the 99th Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic.
The iconic race is this year being run for the first time by Cycling Australia, which has virtually deleted the Princes Highway from the route and instead devised one its says offers more turns and opportunities for teams to run a tactical race.
This new course diverges south from the Hamilton Highway along the Lismore-Camperdown Road to Camperdown and crosses to Cobden and along the Cobden-Warrnambool Road to finish at the usual point on Raglan Parade.
Terang and District Progress Association member Matt Henderson said he was disappointed Terang had been omitted from the race route.
“However, I understand they need to run the race for what works best for them logistically,” Mr Henderson said.
Cycling Australia said the changes would create a more technical course, with the winding route giving riders a range of head and tail winds for a tactical race.
The new course will also take in beautiful rural countryside for television and internet coverage and ease traffic congestion on the Princes Highway, according to Cycling Australia.
Spectators will be able to “leapfrog” the race as it progresses to catch the action all the way along before moving to Warrnambool to watch the finale.
Long-time race commentator Lyndsay Hill, who retired from the role last year after 41 years, said he expected the new route to be tougher for riders, but would be safer.
Coming off the highway at Camperdown and going through Cobden “would create a lot of interest with the hills”, he said.
The Classic will feature a gruelling King of the Mountain climb at Camperdown at the 185-kilometre point, where the riders face a 6.9 per cent gradient to a height of nearly 300 metres.
One of the race’s two sprint challenges will take place in Cobden.
Mr Hill, who is vice-president of the Warrnambool Citizens Road Race Committee which owns the race, said he was disappointed the historic event had come off the Princes Highway but the route had been through numerous changes and continued to thrive and retain its prestige.
“All the riders love the prestige of winning the Warrnambool,” he said.
Race director Scott Sunderland said Cycling Australia had arranged more coverage for this year’s race with media packages to be provided to local and state television networks and to SBS.
The west-bound lanes of Raglan Parade between Flaxman and Kepler streets will close from 10am-4pm today.
The west-bound section near the race finish, between Banyan and Liebig streets, will close from 5.30am until 6.30pm.
Westbound heavy vehicles will be allowed to continue along Raglan Parade.