Nathan Elliott created history as the first man to win back-to-back Anchor Point Melbourne to Warrnambool cycling classics with one of the bravest and most daring rides in the 102-year history of the race.
Elliott was part of a six-rider breakaway from the outset of the 277km trip of torture but, despite a lead of more than five minutes, he was collared by the two mountain stages at Camperdown with 65km to race.
The 26-year-old was part of every attempted breakaway for the next 50km before he “went for broke” with 6km to ride.
After the IsoWhey Sports Swiss Wellness rider repeled the efforts of NSW Institute of Sport’s Tom Robinson (fourth), he defied the peleton to defeat WA Olympian Sam Welsford and Tommy Nankervis (Stitch and Dart) by two seconds in the smart time of 6:34.23.
“I really went for it at the 2km, dug deep, and gee, it was hard those last 300m up the hill and into a head wind,” Elliott said.
“But I wanted it so bad. I knew nobody had gone back-to-back in this great race and when I had it in my grasp I certainly wasn’t going to die wondering – I just gave it everything I had,” the physically exhausted and mentally sapped Victorian said.
In virtually perfect conditions and with thousands cheering him home, Elliott sat up in the saddle over the last 50m to savour the moment which reduced his winning time in an otherwise dominant display of long-distance road racing.
Elliott now has an extraordinary record in the Southern Hemisphere’s longest road race and the world’s second oldest event. He crashed and did not finish at his first attempt three years ago and has won the next two!
Runner-up Welsford almost caused one of the great upsets. He is the current world champion in the teams pursuit and the Olympic silver medallist at Rio.
His performance over the 277km of varying terrain was akin to superstar sprinter Usain Bolt running the Boston marathon and just being pipped!
“It was a great experience and good to show that track riders can be competitive in these really tough road races,” he said.
Welsford said he “wanted to have a crack at his legendary race” and was pleasantly surprised to be right in the finish.
“The two mountain climbs were really tough for big guys like me but when I re-joined the peleton and it became obvious it would be a sprint home I was rapt.”
The dash to the finish was marred when 20 riders at the head of the peleton crashed just 150m out.
However, Elliott was home and hosed by then as he wrote his name into the iconic race’s history book.
Bruce Clarke won the race in 1971 and 1973, David Allan in 1976, 1979 and 1982, Peter Besanko in 1989 and 1992, Jamie Drew in 1999 and 2002 and Joel Pearson in 2009 and 2011, but no cyclist has won back-to-back.
NSW Institute of Sport’s Ryan Cavanagh also was a star of the day.
He won three of the four sprints to become the Midlands Meats Sprint Champion, and he also won the McCarthy Catering 200km championship. To boot, he won the Scody King of the Mountain award.
The Midlands Meats First Warrnambool Rider award went to Matthew Lane, the Teams Classification again to IsoWheySports Swiss Wellness, and the Anchor Point first female award to Erin Nolan.