One of Australia's finest-ever riders will compete in the inaugural Dirty Warrny on Saturday.
Almost 20 years on from winning the Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic, Simon Gerrans joins a strong list of competitors taking part in the brand-new gravel race which begins in Geelong and finishes at Lake Pertobe.
The 42-year-old retired from professional cycling in 2018 after a 14-year career which saw him compete in two Olympics and win a host of accolades, including individual-stage victories in all three grand tours - Tour de France (2008, '13), Giro d'italia (2009) and Vuelta a Espana (2009).
Melbourne to Warrnambool cycling committee executive officer Shane Wilson said those involved were "delighted" to have Gerrans compete in the 246-kilometre trek.
"He's one of Australia's greatest-ever cyclists and he loves the Dirty Warrny," Wilson said.
"He rode the original pilot ride and that was shortly after he'd retired from his European pro contracts and to think that he won the Warrny almost two decades ago and now he's coming back.
"To put yourself in the saddle for 246 kilometres proves how much he loves it."
Gerrans will have his work cut out for him in the race, with riders such as 2022 Australian National Gravel Championship victor Brendan Johnston and Commonwealth Games gold-medal-winning cyclist Grace Brown just some of the high-profile riders taking part.
Gerrans previously told The Standard of his affinity for Warrnambool, recalling his 2003 classic win in 2020.
"In reflection I think it was my first professional one-day victory, as it was professional at that time. It's such a long, hard race so it was a really significant milestone in my career," he said.
"There is only one race that is older than it on the calendar and that is Liège-Bastogne-Liège and I won that quite late in my career."
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