SEVENTY-five years after watching his first Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic, Gus Hyland had the honour of waving the chequered flag for the first time on Saturday.
Hyland, 82, stood at the finishing line as Dutchman Floris Goesinnen became the first international to win the prestigious road race in seven years.
The long-standing Warrnambool Citizens Road Race committee member was asked to wave the flag a week before the 117th running of the 262-kilometre Classic.
"I said 'you're joking'," Hyland said.
"It's a great honour. I am quite rapt actually."
The affable cycling enthusiast watched his first Melbourne to Warrnambool in 1937. Colac-born Hyland was hooked from that moment on.
"My father used to have a farm and he used to talk about going down to the race and watching the riders go through," he said.
"In 1937 he said to me,when we were on the farm, 'We are going into see 'the Warrnambool'.
"I didn't even know what 'the Warrnambool' was.
"I was only seven years old and we came in and saw 'the Warrnambool' and I still remember to this day, as clear as if it happened yesterday," he said.
"I thought it was fascinating. We watched the riders come up the hill and I thought it was fantastic.
"I have loved it ever since."
Hyland said cycling was a gruelling yet rewarding sport, with physical and mental toughness paramount.
"You have to be dedicated for a start. You have to be prepared to get out and train, five or six or seven hundred miles a week and you've got to have a very co-operative wife," he joked.
"You get out of it what you put into it.
"If you are prepared to train and put the work in you'll get the results.
"It's a very cruel sport. I reckon I have been in every casualty ward in Victoria, after picking blokes up off the side of the road," he said.
"The first thing they'd say to ya is 'how's my bike?'. There is blood dripping off them everywhere and they'll say 'how's my bike?'. It is a tough sport but a good sport."
Hyland, who has waved the finishing flag at various races around Victoria, was an avid amateur rider and his three sons also have strong cycling backgrounds.
"I raced as an amateur. I raced back in the late 1940s, a long time ago," he said.
"In the middle '50s I stopped I bought a motorbike.
"I still ride my bike every morning -- I only go and get the papers. It's a couple of miles but that's enough."
Hyland had tipped Genesys cyclist Joel Pearson to take out the Melbourne to Warrnambool crown for a third time.
Pearson finished fifth.
Hyland has many memories from the iconic race, and after waving the flag, 2012 is certain to become a standout.