2015 marked the 100th edition of the Melbourne to Warrnambool. The famous race was won by Australian Olympic Track sprinter Scott Sunderland, with another Australian Olympic Track Cyclist Alex Edmondson, finishing second for the second year in a row and last year's winner Oliver Kent-Spark rounding out the podium.
Now that the dust has settled, we check in with our profiled riders following the 100th edition of the Melbourne to Warrnambool to see how their day played out and if the event lived up to expectations.
100th edition of the Melbourne to Warrnambool - The Men's podium
1. Scott Sunderland, Budget Forklifts - 7:27:49
2. Alexander Edmondson, SASI
3. Oliver Kent-Spark, health.com.au-search2retain Cycling Team
Average speed of the winner: 37.3 km/h
Number of starters: 244
Riders abandoning the race: 39
The Men's podium
100th edition of the Melbourne to Warrnambool - The Women's podium
1. Lauretta Hanson - 7:50:57
2. Miranda Griffiths
3. Chloe McIntosh
Average speed of the winner: 35.5 km/h
Number of starters: 19
Riders abandoning the race: 4
The Women's podium
Oliver Kent-Spark - Men's A grade
To wear the number 1 for the 100th edition of the Melbourne to Warrnambool was truly special to me. I'd never been the number 1 before, let alone in a race as prestigious as this. My motivation to do the race justice was high.
Aside from an early incident in which I required a few bike changes (thanks to my teammate Logan Griffen), the race was relatively uneventful in terms of pace and weather conditions.
Besides Budget Forklifts animating things early by sending Jake Kauffman up the road solo, the race seemed happy to trundle into Warrnambool all the way from the first feed. As the gap between the breakaway and the peloton blew out to over 16 minutes, and the reality that the peloton may be pulled out of the race sank in, it became my team's duty (Search2retain/Health.com.au) to keep things moving.
The boy's rode from just outside the second feed zone at Lismore all the way to Camperdown, with Stuart Smith doing a mammoth workload all the way to the final feed in Terang. The race finally heated up over the climb at Camperdown, which saw Jack Bobridge ride off the front with a few others who eventually bridged the gap to the Kauffman group. This meant that Budget Forklifts now had two in the break and a rested team in the peloton, a perfect situation for them.
As we went through Terang the attacks started to come like rapid fire. The race had been relatively easy to this point, there were many sets of fresh legs waiting to seize their opportunity. In addition to this Budget Forklift had Scott Sunderland in the group, the red hot favourite should the race come down to sprint.
Despite the many attacks that followed, the number of fresh legs was too great for any move to stick, and the bunch could not be broken apart. With the final two riders (Kauffman and Bobridge) brought back into the fold of the peloton at 10km to go, inevitably, the race came down to a bunch sprint of about 70 riders.
Scott Sunderland took out the 100th edition of the Melbourne to Warrnambool, with Alexander Edmondson claiming second for the second year in a row. I managed to scrape in for third thanks to a great lead out from my American Search2retain/Health.com.au teammate Alder Martz.
Any review or report of this race should not fail to mention the great work ethic and aggression shown by Budget Forklifts. Key animators of the race every year, these lads deserve respect for honouring the tradition of racing and taking it up to all other teams.
My teammates, most of whom had either come out of their offseason early to support me or had done little training in the past months due to injury and illness, rode beyond themselves.
For me, it was the most special race I have been a part of, firstly because of the history of the Melbourne to Warrnambool, and secondly, because of the team effort and sacrifice that my mates put in for me. To finish the season off with a team ride like the one we executed on Saturday is honestly something that I will constantly aspire to achieve in the future.
Monumental effort by my teammates from the very start!
Oliver's tip: When you train, consistency is key. Ensure you slowly build as you progress through your training program.
The peloton strung out through Little River
See also: How to train for the M2W
Alistair Tubb - Men's B grade
Unfortunately, due to an Achilles injury that started to flare up about 8 weeks prior to the Melbourne to Warrnambool, I was not able to make it to the start line.
I had seen a number of practitioners and specialists and we all thought with a week's rest it would heal up pretty quickly and I would be back into it. Sadly, and extremely frustratingly, this was not the case. Ten weeks later, I am only starting to get back on the bike now doing very low mileage.
I had a mate who was racing and actually ended up handing out food to him for the day just to rub some salt in the wound. It was a strange old race to watch from the sidelines as the pace seemed to be right off for a lot of the race. Seeing the bunch sprint at the end certainly fuelled the fire to sign up next year and hopefully make the start line!
Alistair's tip: Hard to say as I only saw the tiniest of parts of the race. From what I saw I would say to be on your guard the whole time. Seems like there were a lot of crashes from silly moves in the bunch so you have to be prepared at all times…..
The peloton still together up an early climb
Purdie Long - Women's B grade
Everyone I had spoken to about the Melbourne to Warrnambool had said how chaotic the start was, but this was an understatement. The first ten km's was spent fluctuating between 45km/h to slamming on the brakes and coming to a stand still. Utter chaos.
In hindsight, I should have been more aggressive and fought harder for a better position closer to the front, as this had a huge impact on how my day panned out. I was slowed down in the first twenty km's having being caught behind two crashes. As I slowed to avoid coming down myself the bunch rode off into the distance. I wasn't in a position to respond and get back onto the bunch and found myself in no mans land, around the You Yangs. This was effectively the last I saw of the bunch for the day.
I managed to form a small group with some strong riders, and we collected a few more along the way who had dropped off the bunch. We worked together throughout the day to make the time limit, but there were times when we had to dig deep to keep the pace high enough to get that finisher's medal. We definitely completed the race the hard way, which I guess makes the achievement all the more rewarding.
Rolling into Warrnambool we caught every red light possible, and emotions were running high as the risk of falling out of the time limit became real. The sense of relief and pride when crossing the line was enough to make me want to do it all again!
I'm already looking forward to my next attempt where I feel I'll be better equipped mentally for the dynamics at the start of the race. I'll definitely be looking to position myself better and remain with the bunch for longer.
Purdie's tip: Position, position, position... Try to stay towards the front of the bunch.
The peloton attacking the descent in Camperdown
Adam Kavanagh - Men's C grade
I was so stoked to finish the 100th edition of the Melbourne to Warrnambool. I remember seeing my wife at the final feed station with about 30 km to go and giving her a big thumbs up and a huge smile. That was when I knew I was home and was going to collect my finisher's medal.
The start of the race was IN-SANE! We sat between 40-60kph for the first hour, and I would have to frequently jam on the brakes to avoid crashes or collisions. Everyone was fighting to get to the front and around the corners. I was told it would be that way, but nothing can prepare you for the intensity of that first hour.
I stayed with the main group until about the 180 km mark when two guys went down in front of me. As a result I was forced off the road, into the gravel and off my bike. At the time I was thankful not end up in the back of an ambulance, but looking back now I'm shattered. I was in a good spot within the group and still had fresh legs, so who knows what might have been. At the same time, a lot of guys who went down didn't get back up and looked in a really bad way, so I count myself very lucky not to be involved in any serious crashes.
I have no doubt when the big boys put the hammer down at Camperdown I would have been blown off the back, but it would have been nice to stay with them as long as I could. By the time I got back on the road after the crash, the main group was gone. I buried myself to get back on, but it was not to be. I ended up riding the final 90 km or so with a group of about 20 guys.
I think it's fair to say I enjoyed the final kilometre of the Melbourne to Warrnambool more than most. I put it in the lowest gear, sat up and high-fived people along that stretch. I'll never forget it.
It was a pretty emotional day and the enormity only hit home the day after with all the amazing messages I received.
For anyone thinking about signing up, do it! It's an incredible event, just remember to put on sunscreen!
Adam's tip: Be prepared to go into the red. Regardless of the race situation, be prepared to go full gas to either hold a wheel or stay with the main group. The longer you stay with them the better and the pace will always ease. It might be hard for 10 seconds or 20 minutes, but it will ease. And when it does you will be thankful you are still in the main group and not on your own.
Lynden Blackley - Men's D grade
What a day! Unfortunately, I had to pull out after 180km due to illness.
The race started as soon as we left Eagle stadium. The NRS teams really lit it up and the rest of the field just had to hang on. I got caught behind a crash at the 20km mark which saw me get dropped by the majority of the field.
I rode the next 40km on my own until I met up with five others. We worked well together picking up a few more riders along the way. We made it to Inverleigh but my crew were nowhere to be seen. They had moved onto Lismore thinking that I must have been tucked away in the main bunch, who had already flown through. I managed to scavenge a bidon from a support car and had a couple of gels in my pocket.
The road to Lismore is not flat by any stretch and with a cross-head wind, it made it really hard rolling turns. We made it to Lismore and I was happy to see my feed bags. The road to Camperdown was a bit of a relief with a slight descent. Then the cross winds kicked in. I hadn't felt well for about an hour and began to be sick. At the 180 km, I was done.
Attempting the Melbourne to Warrnambool was a great experience. I learnt a lot and will definitely use that knowledge for next year. If I can offer any advice to a new comer it would be to be ready to go hard from the start... eat and show the race the respect it deserves.
Lynden's tip: Eat, eat, eat! Get food in early and keep it up all day. Even if you don't feel hungry, get a gel down or calories any way you can.
The final sprint to the line - Scott Sunderland showing off his huge power!
Thanks Di Howden for the great images