JIM Dart says stubbornness and willpower were the catalysts for making 21 consecutive Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic start lines.
He bookended his attempts with podium finishes, proving his mettle as a fierce rival across more than two decades.
His 1975 debut was rewarded with a runner-up sash and his 1995 final hurrah with third-place honours.
Ten of the 21 attempts were completed with Dart avoiding a dreaded tyre puncture throughout his classic career.
"It was stubbornness more than anything," he laughed.
"You raced for six months of the year and it was the grand final."
The competitive streak which served him well during those 267-kilometre journeys - and also netted third spot in the 1983 edition - is no longer a driving force.
Now 68, the retired schoolteacher rides for exercise and camaraderie, often navigating the Wangoom circuit or hitting the road with second wife Julie.
"Now it is exercise to keep healthy and previously it was a sporting passion," he said.
Dart will be at the Powercor Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic's Raglan Parade finish line on Saturday as this year's legend.
It is a humbling honour for the former committee member whose passion for cycling stems from childhood.
"I grew up watching the bike race - dad (Peter) has ridden 38 of them," he said.
"All of my life I had bikes around me and it was always an ambition to ride it.
"I achieved a few things as far as competing and being on the committee itself - as I was for 13 years - so it (legend status) is an acknowledgement of what I have done.
"I don't put it out there too much as we do it for other reasons."
Dart said his dad, now 93 and still living independently on the family farm at Naringal, was an inspiration.
"I didn't do it because dad did it but he was on the committee himself when I was growing up and it's just something that was natural for me to progress to," he said.
Father-of-four Dart - whose late wife Janette enjoyed cycling too - juggled teaching, competitions and committee work during his two-decade classic odyssey.
The endurance specialist remembers making the time-honoured race a focus.
"The 260km bike race was suited to me better than others around the place," he said.
"Throughout the season, you build up the distance, and there were a lot of events where I did perform well but it was always aimed towards this one.
"The first one meant an enormous amount - to run second in your first event.
"There were years I didn't finish the bike race because I wasn't prepared or something went wrong.
"One particular year I was having dizzy spells three weeks out and that interrupted training and there were other years where, because I'd been successful, in the handicap system you get put back further in the field.
"I was fortunate I didn't crash at all and I didn't have any punctures in the 21 runnings of the event."
Planning the race, which dropped its handicap status and implemented a mass start in 1996, involved countless hours of preparation.
Dart, who taught commerce and accounting at Brauer College for 32 years before a short stint teaching one class at Warrnambool College, conceded juggling race organisation with his own preparation proved tricky.
"I can remember on some occasions, I'd be riding the bike race and be thinking about what the crowd was doing and what the traffic was like," he said. "The brain shouldn't be thinking about that when you compete."
But Dart's overall feeling when looking back on his contribution to the world's second-oldest one-day race is one of pride.
The classic will start at Avalon on Saturday with the fastest riders expected to see Dart at the finish line about 2.30pm.
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