IT’S been 80 years since a young Gus Hyland tagged along behind his father to watch his maiden Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic.
“I saw my first race in 1937 when I was a seven-year-old,” Mr Hyland said as he prepares to watch the 102nd running of the classic finish on Warrnambool’s Raglan Parade on Saturday.
“My father was a bit interested and he took me down to see the race and I’ve been following it ever since.”
Mr Hyland, who never rode in the famous race, was an amateur rider for “a few years” and he had been involved behind the scenes for years.
“Three of my sons rode,” he said.
The Warrnambool man is looking forward to another thrilling finish.
“It’s a great tradition, it’s just part of Warrnambool. It’s like the May races: it’s part of Warrnambool’s history,” he said.
Mr Hyland, who has seen the race run from Warrnambool to Melbourne and on several different routes, said the modern course, which avoided the Princes Highway because of traffic and safety concerns, did not detract from the event.
“It’s still a great race, we’ve still got the history associated with it. The riders love it, they have ambitions to win it, especially the locals.”
Mr Hyland’s fondest memories are of local riders triumphing – Michael Lynch in 1986 and Jamie Drew, who won it twice, in 1999 and 2002. Jim Dart, whose best finish was second in his first attempt in 1975, was also memorable. But one rider stands out for Mr Hyland.
“Russell Mockridge, in all the years I’ve seen it, was probably the best I’ve seen, he had two fastest times (1956 and ’57),” he said.
The race’s history is part of Australia’s sporting folklore. The National Sports Museum at the MCG installed a new display showcasing Iddo ‘Snowy’ Munro, who had a long association with the Warrnambool.
The display features a framed print from the 1909 Melbourne to Warrnambool, where Munro’s time was faster than the train between the two cities.