ROD NICHOLSON watches history being made as a lone breakaway grabs a second successive win in one of the world’s toughest bike races:
NATHAN Elliott created history as the first man to win back-to-back 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 repelling the efforts of Tom Robinson (fourth), Elliott defied the peloton to run him down, beating Olympian Sam Welsford and Tommy Nankervis by two seconds in the smart time of 6:34.23.
“I really went for it at the two kilometres, dug deep, and gee, it was hard those last 300 metres 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.
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 then won the next two!
Runner-up Welsford almost caused one of the great upsets. He is a current world champion in the teams’ pursuit and an Olympic silver medallist at Rio.
As a track specialist, his performance over the 277km of varying terrain was akin to 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 this 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 peloton 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 peloton crashed just 150 metres out.
However, Elliott was home and hosed by then as he wrote his name into the iconic race’s history book.
Author: Rod Nicholson
ROD NICHOLSON is one of Australia’s best-known sports journalists. He reported cricket, football, racing and other sports for 47 years for The Herald and The Herald Sun.