Warrnambool is known for its unique events.
Each January it hosts the Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic, the world’s biggest sprintcar event outside the Knoxville Nationals in Iowa. Each May we host the Grand Annual Steeplechase, which has 33 fences, the most in the world. And one for day each year we turn our attention to the roads and the world-famous Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic.
It’s a major events portfolio any regional centre would want (and we have more too).
The Melbourne to Warrnambool bike race, like the others, has a special place in our hearts and minds. Every kid grows up riding a bike and each October we all pedalled as fast as we could against our mates on the way home from school, lifting an arm in victory as we crossed the imaginary finish line in our own classic that ended in the driveway not Raglan Parade.
As a boy, I gazed across Morris Road in west Warrnambool as a young lad named Michael Lynch rolled his bike out the driveway and headed off on training rides that lasted for hours. We crowded around wooden-cased TV sets when he represented Australia at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and every October we stood for what seemed ages in Raglan Parade waiting, hoping he would be first across the finish line in his home race, the Melbourne to Warrnambool. When it happened in 1986, we cheered and went home with smiles on our faces. Back then, I had never even spoken to Lynch, but we all ‘knew’ him for his feats on the bike. He took us all on an amazing journey, much like Michelle Ferris did during her track racing career, which included success at Olympic, world and commonwealth levels.
The classic, after more than a century, has had its challenges and finally it seems the sport’s governing bodies are behind it.
The change from its traditional October date at the start of the Australian season to the end, coming after the national championships, Cadel Evans’ race along the Great Ocean Road and the Herald Sun Tour, can only strengthen the elite competition and standing of the event.
Yesterday’s classic, along a different course than the one my generation grew up with, was a challenge still the same.
The small committee of volunteers headed by Warrnambool’s Shane Wilson should be congratulated. They are passionate about the sport, the race and our city’s great history. They know we are lucky to have such an event in our backyard and will do everything they can to continue the great tradition.
Here’s some stories from across the past week to catch up on and kick-start your Sunday.
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