Female riders to stake their claim in 101st Melbourne to Warrnambool race

STRONG STAND: Doris Marr, Tessa Fabry, Kendelle Hodges and Jessica Lane are four racers in the Melbourne to Warrnambool. Picture: Con Chronis

STRONG STAND: Doris Marr, Tessa Fabry, Kendelle Hodges and Jessica Lane are four racers in the Melbourne to Warrnambool. Picture: Con Chronis

AUSTRALIA’S most decorated female cyclists are set to descend on the south-west as a part of a talent-packed Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic field.

Headlining the class-laden women’s field is current individual pursuit world champion, Rebecca Wiasak, and former 24 hour mountain bike world champion, Jessica Douglas.

However, both athletes were late entrants to the race after a call out was made to encourage more female entries for the historic road race.

Doris Marr, Tessa Fabry, Kendelle Hodges and Jessica Lane will also make-up part of the female contingent in the race.

But for Douglas, who resides in Geelong and often trains throughout the Otways, the opportunity to ride the 277km circuit is a nothing short of a dream come true.

“I have always wanted to do the Melbourne to Warrnambool,” she said. 

“It’s been on my radar since I was 16 and riding the Great Victorian Bike Ride. As soon as I saw that the race needed more female entries, I got butterflies in my stomach and then I knew I just had to enter. So I did.”

Douglas said her endurance background gave her confidence in covering the distance, but admitted her focus will be on the finish line.

“My goal is to finish and enjoy working in a good bunch all day long.”

Before taking a short break last month, Wiasak – who is a 3000 metre individual pursuit national record holder – was showing strong form by winning overall at the Amy’s Otway Classic and stage wins on the Sam Miranda Tour.

The timing of the race is set to coincide with summer base preparation for the 32-year-old.

She was modest about expectations leading into the race.

“I am only a couple of weeks into my pre-season training so the Melbourne to Warrnambool will get me a lot of base kilometres,” she said.

Another female prospect, Barwon Heads-based Purdie Long, has enjoyed an “ideal” preparation leading into the event. 

A finisher in the 2015 edition of the race, Long’s energy is focused on addressing unfinished business.

“I’m here to race it again with the learnings and knowledge I gained from last year,” she said.

“I want to ultimately improve on my result on the last one. That’s my goal.”

At a distance of near 300km, the Melbourne to Warrnambool is required to receive an exemption as it heavily exceeds Australian cycling distance regulations.

While it has been established as one of the most famous road races in the country, it is also unique in world cycling, with men and women lining up together at the start line.

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