After a stand-out 2018 season, where the Ballarat local finished second overall in the National Road Series overall standings, 2019 Under 23 national road race champion Nicholas White claimed victory at the 103rd edition of the Powercor Melbourne to Warnambool Cycling Classic.
“I’m pretty stoked," said White. "It was a really hard ride out there and I wasn’t sure I would be able to get it at one point, and everyone in the break was racing really well.
White was part of a move that went clear 90 kilometres into the race, with still over 170 kilometres left until riders would reach the finish line in Warrnambool.
"That’s the longest I’ve ever stayed in a break, and you could tell everyone wanted to be in it," said White. "Deep down I just knew I had to keep it together for a bunch kick and that I would be in with a shot.”
Harrison Bailey (GPM-Stulz) was next best in the bunch gallop for the line, with versatile rider Brendan Johnston (Stitch and Dirt) completing the podium.
Peta Mullens (Roxsolt-Attaquer) took out the women's race, not run as a national road series event but concurrently with the men's event. She finished 11 and a half minutes down on Nick White, part of the peloton that contained the other NRS riders, beating out Taryn Heather (Specialized Women's Racing) and Rebecca Wiasak (Fearless Femme).
"We we're really lucky," said Mullens. "There wasn't a break for the first two hours and we were towed around pretty well there. The boys sort of switched off and let the breakaway go, so we were able to grovel over the hills there and have a sprint at the finish."
Mullens was part of a 10-women field that took to the startline, with national and world champions present among the contenders. With seven riders reaching the finish, Mullens declared the event a win for women's cycling.
“I think for me today was more about the women really achieving something special at the Melbourne to Warrnambool and just completing the distance was better than the win," said Mullens.
The 'Warrny' is the longest race in the southern hemisphere and kicks off the 2019 National Road Series. It’s an event riders dream of winning, with the win the pinnacle of many riders' careers.
Starting in Avalon for the first time, 227 riders took to the 262.2-kilometre road race that has been won by legends of the sport dating back to the inaugural edition in 1895. An animated start to the 2019 edition saw plenty of attacks off the front, but with a competitive and watchful field, it took some time for anything to stick.
A breakaway formed after a solid start to the race, with a group of 13 forming off the front that ultimately decided the placings of the race. This decisive break included 2018 National Road Series overall winner Raphael Freienstein (Inform TM Insight MAKE) as well as a some of strongest riders from the top teams at the race.
Joining White and Freienstein was Harrison Bailey (GPM-Stulz), Brendan Johnston, Jake Klajnblat (both Stitch and Dirt), William Hodges (Oliver’s Real Food Racing), Sam Hill (Team Nero Bianchi), Oliver Martin (Drapac Cannondale Holistic Development Team), Rylan Dowdell (Van D'am Racing p/b Butterfields - Appselec), Cyrus Monk (EvoPro Racing), Peter Milostic (Penrith Cycling Club), Nicholas Canterbury and Jack Aitken (both Subaru - Anchor Point Racing Team).
With all the major teams represented in the front bunch, the peloton appeared to be setting a relaxed pace, with time gaps blowing out to a maximum advantage of 14 minutes. Once the front bunch knew they were a safe distance from the peloton the attacks began to flow off the front.
44-year Milostic showed that he is still a formidable athlete, going solo for 20 kilometres before being dragged back, while a subsequent attack from Klajnblat was the only move to gain more than a momentary gap. Coming into the finale, it became clear that it was going to come down to a sprint, with noone wanting to be the first to launch and lead the others out.
In the end it was largely a drag race to the finish, with renowned fast finisher White taking the win comfortably ahead of Bailey and Johnston.