ONE OF the world's oldest cycling classics has received a significant facelift for its 104th edition.
The Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic has added two new races to its program and expanded into two days for the first time in its history.
The "Warrny" will again be the feature race of the weekend but the inaugural Port Campbell to Warrnambool Handicap and the Warrnambool Criterium will debut when the event returns on February 15.
The 75-kilometre handicap, which replaces the Camperdown to Warrnambool Veterans race, offers cyclists of various levels the chance to experience the atmosphere and prestige of the Melbourne to Warrnambool but in a more achievable format.
Cyclists will then be encouraged to stay in town overnight to race in the criterium on Sunday as the exciting new 1.6-kilometre event, which will involve a range of grades, takes place around Warrnambool's picturesque breakwater.
Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Committee chairman Shane Wilson said the changes would bring new life to the time-honoured event.
"Last year these changes were on the drawing board and we did all the preliminary work and had it all ticked off and everything was ready to go," he said.
"We have council support and the support of all the stakeholders such as The Pavilion and then last year having a lot of changes we wanted to get that right and were comfortable with where we got it.
"Now we have the Port Campbell to Warrnambool and the Sunday criterium, with the dinner in between, it really becomes a cycling festival for Warrnambool across that weekend."
The Victorian Government will fund the Melbourne to Warrnambool until 2021 under the $17.7 million Significant Sporting Events Program.
Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula said the changes gave the race "a real shot in the arm".
"We're proud to be backing the expansion of the race weekend, which will provide a significant boost to Warrnambool, Port Campbell and surrounding districts," he said.
Corangamite Shire Council Mayor Neil Trotter said he was proud to see Port Campbell become a major part of the classic.
"It's a great initiative because we have had a pretty close association with with the classic over a number of years as it goes from one area of our shire to the other," he said.
"We have had a strong cycling fraternity in Camperdown and in the past we have had legs around the lake and now this one is taking it further south with the Port Campbell to Warrnambool and we're happy to see it take place."
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