TWO small photographs taped to his bike handlebars were all the inspiration Brendan Pendergast needed to finish the Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic.
Every time Pendergast looked down, the bitumen rolling on as he pedalled for 11 hours in the 256-kilometre trek, pictures of two Warrnambool people undergoing medical treatment spurred him on.
“When I thought things were tough I’d look at those pictures and it didn’t seem so tough any more,” he said.
Pendergast, 60, fell away from the peloton at the You Yangs and lost touch with all other cyclists at Bannockburn.
But he didn’t give up and finished the Classic at 6.30pm on Saturday, about four hours after winner Sam Horgan.
“The race started at 7.30am so it was a long day,” he said.
“Amazingly there was a crowd of 30 or 40 people at the finish line and as I rode into Warrnambool there were lots of people coming out to give me encouragement so that really gave me a lift. I was elated to finish and that was my sole objective.
“The ride from Bannockburn to Lismore was incredibly tough and there were parts of that section where I was directly under the eye of the wind and it was extremely difficult because I was on my own.”
Pendergast’s ride was officially classed as a DNF (did not finish) but he was awarded the Bill Wines Memorial Trophy for first Warrnambool rider home.
“It is totally unexpected but I am very grateful for the committee to make the presentation to me, it’s a bonus for me,” he said.
“I’ll treasure it. I had the very good fortune of winning the handicap section in 1996 so to get acknowledged again in 2013 is fantastic.”
Pendergast, who has completed the iconic road race six out of seven attempts, thanked his wife for her support on Saturday.
He said he was unsure if he’d tackle the Melbourne to Warrnambool an eighth time.
“My immediate plans are to do the Grafton to Inverell race in two weeks’ time,” he said.
“Warrnambool is said to be Australia’s longest road race and that’s said to be Australia’s toughest.
“I don’t have any plans beyond there, not for endurance races.”