GREETED with thunderous applause and excitement at the finish line, Nathan Elliott’s first act as Melbourne to Warrnambool champion was to embrace his proud parents.
The 25-year-old Melbourne rider made a bold move inside the final two kilometres of the iconic race, mowing down Ayden Toovey (2nd) and Robbie Hucker (3rd) to clinch the most significant victory of his career.
The trio were part of the early breakaway that formed after 17 kilometres, staying ahead all the way to the famous Raglan Parade stretch in Warrnambool.
Elliott, who rode without the backing of a team for the race, said he was ‘stoked’ to claim the win in the second oldest one-day road race in the world.
“I was pretty relieved to finally get a big win to be honest,” he said.
“This is the biggest win of my career. I was pretty close at Grafton to Inverall, coming second, but I knew I had good legs here.
“The race can play out so many different ways here because of the weather conditions, and I know last week they predicted strong cross winds. I knew I’d be in with a pretty good shot if it was going to be a hard race. It just panned out perfectly for me.”
Elliott, who ventured to Canada last year to ride alongside a professional team, used the Tour of Gippsland, the Tour of the Great South Coast and the Sam Miranda Tour of King Valley as preparation for the 101st Melbourne to Warrnambool classic.
He put the demons of a 73rd place in last year’s event to beat out the country’s most decorated cyclists for the gong in a fast time of six hours and 38 minutes – more than half an hour in front of the expected finishing time.
Elliott said strong crosswinds throughout the ride meant it was a battle against the elements all along the 277km circuit.
“Their was a few attacks early but the break went early, maybe 30 kilometres in, everyone rolled well all day,” he said.
“Everyone rode super well together and their wasn’t much mucking around. The chasing pack were gaining on us but at the end, it sort of just ballooned out again.
“The crosswinds picked up and we had about 12 minutes on the rest of the guys. If there was anybody coming from behind, they were going to be working a lot harder than us.
“Even if they got there, I wasn’t too worried because I knew they would’ve put in the hard yards to get there.”
Centenary winner, Scott Sunderland, rolled across the line in 18th place – just three ahead of Warrnambool hope Sam Lane in 21st.
Second place finisher, New South Welshman Toovey won the sprint classification, which also meant he took out the 200km Championship.