PAUL Fitzgerald has a simple reason why he reignited his cycling career three years ago.
“You’re riding for your health,” the 51-year-old said, ahead of the south-west’s biggest weekend of cycling for the year.
“Wherever you finish, you’re winning anyway.”
It’s a refreshing statement from a man who rode when he was a teenager, and took up the sport again as he closed in on 50.
Fitzgerald is one of 112 riders — including eight women — who will contest the 72km Bill Long Memorial today, from Camperdown to Warrnambool.
The event is one of the highlights on the veterans’ cycling calendar, and complements the iconic Melbourne to Warrnambool.
As professionals Joel Pearson, Anthony Giacoppo and the likes race for a share of prizemoney, Fitzgerald will pedal his way to better health.
It will be the fourth time he’s contested the Camperdown to Warrnambool race and he’s hoping he’ll be in contention to win as the race reaches its conclusion.
“I’ve finished all three. The first year I rode I was there at the finish, but I didn’t get a place,” he said.
“The next two years I didn’t make it to the finish with the leaders.
“Finishing won’t be a problem, it’s being there with the leaders.
“A nice sunny day with no wind would suit the outmarkers (like me). There’s going to be a bit of wind but not too much to worry about.
“The last two years the wind was blowing 40km/h, there was rain and hail.
“It’s not going to be anything like that.”
Fitzgerald, a concreter, rides an exercise bike in his shed during the week, and trains with a group on Saturdays.
He backs up by competing in Warrnambool Veterans’ Cycling Club races on Sundays.
Victorian Veterans Cycling Council president Tom Finning said the Camperdown to Warrnambool was the group’s major handicap of the year.
“It’s our last race for the season, and always attracts a strong field,” he said.
“It’s a great race, and the prestige of finishing at the same finish line as the big race, and the atmosphere at the finishing line is something the riders always enjoy.”
Finning said to be considered a veteran, male cyclists needed to be aged over 35, and women over 30.
“We have all age groups riding. Our oldest rider is 80-year-old Brian Long from Geelong.
“He is one of those people who has never given up cycling. He will do it no problems,” Finning said.
He said 14 cyclists would ride off scratch, including Warrnambool’s Darrin Jones, Brian McNamara and Simon Walsh.
Former Warrnambool cyclist David Tozer will also ride with the backmarkers.
The field also includes former Melbourne to Warrnambool winner Lance Wearne (1966).
“It’s a good field, when you go through it there are a few names that stand out and could be in with a real chance,” he said.
“Guys like Terry Stewart, South Australian Simon Little and Roy Clarke will be good chances.
“We are very pleased with the turn-out, it looks like it’s going to be another hard-fought race,” he said
Finning predicted south-west winds would have an impact on the race.
“If that’s right, then the backmarkers will be in with a big chance,” he said.
Riders will depart Camperdown at 10am, travelling via the Cobden-Warrnambool Road, and will arrive in Warrnambool about noon.