ONE of the region’s oldest sporting traditions, the Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic, has been saved for now but faces an uphill climb to survive.
The classic will go ahead in October but only after major sponsors Midfield Group and Anchor Point Lifestyle Village came to the rescue with financial backing.
But long-time promoter John Craven, who was called in at short notice to fundraise for this year’s event after a previous management company suffered financial losses, fears for the race’s future.
“The 2016 ‘Warrnambool’ was a shambles, I don’t think anybody would dispute that fact – hardly any lead-up publicity, the worst crowd I have ever seen at the finish, and a general air of doom and gloom,” Craven said.
“The time-honoured race faced extinction until Cycling Victoria and Caribou Publications agreed to preserve the survival of the Classic. We are overwhelmed that two Warrnambool businesses Anchor Point and Midfield have thrown their support behind it with some other smaller sponsors.”
He said Warrnambool City Council gave $20,000 each year but the state government’s $20,000 contribution was a “shameful” $30,000 less than the previous Liberal government.
Craven, who retired from the organising committee after 20 years, felt “emotionally blackmailed” to return to save the 121-year-old event.
“Sadly, the Warrnambool Citizens’ Road Race Committee is made up of some ageing warriors who have run the good race but, in fairness, recognise the need for young blood in their ranks,” he said.
“Some youngsters are emerging, but the committee is screaming out for a live-wire leader and robust committee who can crash through the monumental challenges major cycling events now face.”
Craven said the 2017 race would not be going ahead if other sponsors like McCarthy Catering, Mitchell Building Supplies, High Street Meats Terang, and Queensland jersey manufacturer Scody, did not throw their weight behind the event.
The classic will be held on October 14.