TWO-TIME reigning Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic champion Nathan Elliott will be the most watched cyclist in the 103rd edition of the iconic race in two different ways.
One will be the crowds who will line the 262-kilometre route of the race on Saturday eager to see the 28-year-old re-write the history books and win a third consecutive Classic.
The others will be his opponents in the peloton who will be hoping to spoil his party at the finish on Raglan Parade.
But in 2016 and 2017 when the times have been tough on and off the road the Melbourne-based cyclist has had the answers to one of the favourite races on the Australian Cycling calendar.
In 2016 Elliott was part of a breakaway group, including Ayden Toovey and Robbie Hucker, that survived all the way to the finish line to claim victory.
Fast-forward a year and Elliott installed the same tactics. Jumping in an early breakaway and evaded the peloton for a second straight year to claim victory.
But in his fourth attempt at Australia's oldest one-day race the first-year InForm TM Insight MAKE team rider will have to adapt his tactics with the peloton weary of the threat he poses to their victory if he manages to escape their clutches once again.
I'm going to be a marked man so I have to race smartly this time around.Nathan Elliott
"I'm going to be a marked man so I have to race smartly this time around," he said.
"But if everyone is watching me we also have last year's National Road Series champion in Raph (Freienstein) and we have a good strong team and have a few cards to play."
But the Melbournian is still weary of the riders who could steal his crown.
"Bridgelane are all super strong and they will be hard to beat," he said. "There are a few strong guys in Drapac (Cannondale Holistic Development Team), especially if it comes down to a sprint.
"There is always a few riders who you aren't thinking about as well who can pop up. You have to watch everyone."
Elliott isn't a stranger to overcoming harsh odds, with his victory in 2017 a highlight of how the peloton can't afford to underestimate the two-time champion.
The bike shop employee was hit by a vehicle during the 2017 Tour Down Under and sustained a minor brain injury and a broke his arm and wrist. But the crash doesn't hamper him now whenever he jumps on his bike.
"I can't remember the day of the crash so it is probably a good thing," he said.
"In terms of being scared of crashing and that sort of stuff it doesn't impact me at all anymore. It's great being back out on the bike and I look forward to some of the big races and challenge myself to work towards them."
However the injury meant the eager student was not able to sit his GMSAT exam for medicine.
"I still need to do a doctorate of medicine but the crash did hamper me pursuing that," he said. "For a couple of years I wasn't able to do the entrance exam because of the memory and head issues I was dealing with, which was a bit of a downer."
With the injuries well behind him Elliott is eager to bring his strong form into one of his favourite races.
He is also ready for his first hit-out with his new team - InForm TM Insight MAKE.
"This will be my first proper race with them because at (the road) nationals I was the only elite rider as the other ones were either under 19s or under 23s," Elliott said.
"I'm looking forward to it. They are a great team and they have a really good culture and it is always good fun being around the guys."
Raph Freienstein, Tom Benton, Tom Jones, Tom McFarlane, Will Moloney-Morton and Carter Turnball will be riding alongside Elliott in his quest for history.
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