NEW Zealand-based cyclist Sam Horgan says he will have to keep bringing a personal support team to watch him race.
With girlfriend Anna Searle watching on, the 26-year-old won the Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic at his first attempt on Saturday, just two months after claiming the Tour of the Great South Coast with parents Peter and Erin cheering from the sidelines.
“Having family watch me race in Australia seems to be working. I’ll have to keep bringing them with me,” he said.
Horgan became the 98th cyclist to etch his name on the honour roll with a stunning attack in the final few kilometres of the 256km journey from Werribee Park.
Horgan reserved his energy until the final three kilometres of the race and along with Budget Forklifts teammate Jack Anderson opened a gap on the lead bunch of six riders that proved unbeatable.
He finished the Classic in six hours, 32 minutes and 12 seconds.
Teammates Anderson and Jacob Kauffmann rounded out the top three, handing Team Budget Forklifts a rare “Warrnie” trifecta.
It was the first time the placegetters had ridden the race and Horgan said he went in not knowing what to expect.
“I knew it was going to be a long day, so I just kept it low key for most of the race. I didn’t want to go out too early,” he said.
“I have never done the race before but it’s been a target of mine. I’ve worked hard towards it and it’s really meaningful to win a race I’ve wanted so much and with so much history behind it.”
He said there were breakaways all day with some looking like they may go on to win the race.
“We managed to bring back most of the breakaways and everything was going to plan until just after Camperdown,” he said.
“There was a big breakaway that got a good lead on the rest of us and that’s when we had to kick it up a gear.”
The breakaway featured last year’s champion Floris Goesinnen (Team Drapac) and Charter Mason Drapac’s Jason Spencer.
As they passed through Naringal, Goesinnen and Spencer were reeled in by another break of four riders, including Anderson and Kauffmann.
“Those two guys going across (to the leaders) meant that I could sit back with the chasers and save myself for the finish,” Horgan said.
With three kilometres remaining, Horgan and Jack Beckinsale (Huon-Genesys) managed to bridge a 20-second gap to the lead riders of Tom Robinson (Huon-Genesys), Alex Ray (Target Trek) and Robbie Hucker (Drapac).
From there Horgan made a solo move before Anderson and later Kauffmann followed.
“As we were coming across to the group we could see them slowing up and playing cat and mouse,” Horgan said.
“We caught them at about three kilometres to go and I attacked straight away, I didn’t hesitate.
“I had a gap by myself up the final climb, I turned around and it was Jack coming across to me and we both buried ourselves to get to the finish.” Horgan and Anderson worked hard in the final kilometre to eliminate the attack and approached the finish line together before Anderson backed off, allowing Horgan the honours.
“I owe this to the two guys standing beside me on the podium, they are amazing teammates,” he said.
“For Jack to back off and allow me to take the win shows the type of character he is, he’s a fantastic teammate and we’ll miss him next year when he heads overseas.”
Horgan said it was early days but he would love to come back and contest his title next year.
“This region suits me well, It’s not too hilly,” he said.
“I’d love to come back next year, it’s a great race.”