A MODERN-DAY record field will greet the starter’s gun in this year’s Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic.
Race officials yesterday revealed 229 cyclists would attempt the iconic 262-kilometre race from Werribee racecourse to Raglan Parade on Saturday.
The figure means this year’s Classic will be the largest since the race became a mass start in 1996.
The previous best was 210, set in 2011 when New South Welshman Joel Pearson claimed his second title.
Pearson, who rides with Genesys Wealth Advisors, will attempt to become just the third rider to claim three crowns.
But he will have fierce competition from West Australian Anthony Giacoppo, also from team Genesys Wealth Advisors, who celebrated victory in the four-stage Scody Cup at the weekend.
Classic director John Craven said the 2012 field was the best he had seen since he began promoting the event in 1996.
“It’s fitting that such a prominent race has attracted such a strong field,” he said.
“The entry record has tumbled for several years now, which shows just how popular and important the Classic is.
“While numerous riders are desperate to stand on the top of the podium, for a large group of competitors just finishing will be a huge and memorable achievement.”
The Melbourne to Warrnambool field includes riders from every Australian state, as well as from overseas.
Floris Goesinnen and David Mulhall from the Netherlands, and New Zealanders Alexander Ray and Gordon McCauley are among a group of foreign raiders.
The bumper interest in the Melbourne to Warrnambool has also helped the Shipwreck Coast Classic set a new field record.
An unprecedented 155 riders — 22 more than last year’s record field — will contest the 116.7-kilometre race from Flagstaff Hill to Allansford, via Peterborough, on Sunday.
Giacoppo is the defending champion.
“When the event was founded in 2009, the aim was to create a cycling extravaganza weekend for the south-west region,” Craven said.
“This large, top-class field proves that we have been able to tick off that goal.
“It promises to be a tremendous two days of racing.”