Author confronts Classic cycling task

JOHN Craven admits he ducked for cover when he was first approached to chronicle the history of the Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic. 

It was the sheer volume of research into the race which was established in 1895 and has been held 98 times that  he found daunting. 

“But I thought about it and I realised it had to be done and it had to be launched next year to mark the 100th race,” Craven said. 

“When the book is released there will have been 99 people who have won the race, and about 20,000 who have lost, for want of a better term.

“I don’t want this to be a dry, drab historical piece. Everyone knows who won and who got fastest time. I want to document the anecdotes and tales that no one knows about.” 

Warrnambool Citizens Road Race Committee president Brendan Gleeson said the committee was thrilled and excited that a quality book on the classic’s history was to become a reality.

“We talked about this project for years and Tony Wilkinson was the driving force before his untimely passing. He would be over the moon to know it is finally happening,” Mr Gleeson said.

Craven served as race director from 1996 to 2012 and covered the race in his role as a reporter at The Herald newspaper, but said there were always stories you don’t hear about even when at the forefront.  

“I interviewed Frank Atkinson who won fastest time in 1967. 

“He told me about his grandfather Bert Viney who got second fastest time in 1905, when the race was run in reverse from Warrnambool to Melbourne,” he said. 

“Bert left Tasmania on a steamship, arriving in Melbourne on the Wednesday with only his bike, the clothes he was wearing and a change of jocks and socks. When he arrived in Melbourne he jumped on his bike and rode to Colac where he stayed the night. 

“On the Thursday he rode to Warrnambool, had a rest on the Friday and then on Saturday did the race, got second fastest time. That night he jumped back on the boat and was home on Sunday. 

“It’s stories like that which are typical of what the research has uncovered so far.”

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