BENDIGO'S Peta Mullens isn't going to shy away from one of her biggest cycling challenges.
The 30-year-old - an 11-time Australian champion in road, mountain bike, track and cross country cycling - enters her second Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic optimistic she can conquer the daunting 262-kilometre course.
Mullens, who runs a bike shop in Bendigo with her partner Jarrod Moroni, enters the race after a stage win at the 2019 Snowies Mountain Bike Festival last week.
The cycling enthusiast will suit up for the Roxsolt women's team, which is the only team in the women's side of the race, in the 103rd edition of the Classic this Saturday.
Mullens said it was not just her team - which includes Australian road race champion Sarah Gigante, Renata Bucher and Emma Chilton - but the strong field of women made her eager to ride.
"The calibre of the field entered this year is ridiculous, I actually never thought I would see so many top level National Road Series women," she said. "It's promising but it also makes the event more daunting because the event in itself is tough to tackle in terms of the distance and the challenges it poses racing with the men.
"But the race organisers have gone above and beyond to make sure the women are catered for in the race and that we have next level support on hand."
The Classic's course distance combined with the challenging 1700 metres of climbing is something Mullens hopes her fellow riders will be able to band together to conquer.
"The new course is a lot harder and with the wind like we have at the moment we will have a head wind through Geelong and then after we head over to the first climb it will be a cross wind pretty much all the way to Warrnambool," she said.
"If I can get over the climbs I'm pretty confident I will be fine in the cross winds in the men's field but that will be the telling story.
"The climbing normally doesn't come until about 70 kilometres into the men's race but this year they are a lot earlier and if we (the female field) get detached from the peloton I know it will be a real challenge to make the time cut.
"But with strength in numbers I feel like we aren't racing each other until the final 10 or 20 kilometres and we want it to be a fair and honest race and we will look after each other until the dying moments."
Mullens said plenty of the women's field wanted to prove they could complete Australia's oldest one-day cycling classic but was also open to a shorter version.
"I believe a few of the women will make it to the finish line and prove that we can race that distance," the experienced cyclist said.
"But in the same breath we all agree we shouldn't be racing that distance. The men have a field of 250 riders to cover the 262 kilometres - that is nearly one rider per kilometre.
"Until the women's field exceeds those numbers I don't see how it makes sense that we race so far.
"I am very in favour of a shorter women's Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic in the future at around 150 kilometres.
"But at the same time I'm very strong willed and I would like to prove to people we can do the full distance as well."
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