• The race stretches out at the start (Cycling Australia / Con Chronis)Source: Cycling Australia / Con Chronis
The Melbourne to Warrnambool, one of the world's oldest cycling races, will receive a significant boost in 2020, Warrnambool's local newspaper The Standard reports.
Cycling Central

12 Nov 2019 - 7:06 AM 

Following a hiatus in 2018 as it moved from October to its new slot on the National Road Series calendar for February 2019, organisers are adding two new races to the 104th edition. 

In an attempt to open the event beyond the arduous, elite 262km race on Saturday February 15, which will not change, a criterium on Sunday and a 75km handicap race are planned. 

Saturday's Port Campbell to Warrnambool Handicap is aimed at cyclists of various levels and will replace the Campberdown to Warrnambool Veterans' race.

Sunday's criterium set around Warrnambool's breakwater offers another chance at racing for teams and riders already participating in Saturday's 'Warny.' 

Australian sprinter Brenton Jones said at the announcement that's exactly what he wants to do in 2020 but hopes to race the criterium wearing the green and gold stripes of the national champion on the Sunday. 

"I'd love to come back and do it next year and the criterium on the Sunday is going to be extra special for me to take up a weekend of racing here," 2019's national criterium champion told The Standard. 

"Having an extended weekend and with the criterium on the Sunday will be really great for not only the spectators but the riders," he said.

"They are going to take part in one of the most gruelling and toughest races in Australia and the world on Saturday and on the Sunday they're going to see the fast legs of the sprinters racing around the waterfront."

Organisers' ultimate goal is to increase the amount of people staying in Warrnambool by extending the festivities across an entire weekend. 

"Last year these changes were on the drawing board,"  Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Committee chairman Shane Wilson told The Standard.  "We did all the preliminary work and had it all ticked off and everything was ready to go," he said.  

"We have council support and the support of all the stakeholders and then last year having a lot of changes we wanted to get that right and were comfortable with where we got it.

"Now we have the Port Campbell to Warrnambool and the Sunday criterium, with the dinner in between, it really becomes a cycling festival for Warrnambool across that weekend."

The Victorian Government will fund the Melbourne to Warrnambool until 2021 under the $17.7 million Significant Sporting Events Program.

"We're proud to be backing the expansion of the race weekend, which will provide a significant boost to Warrnambool, Port Campbell and surrounding districts," Victoria's Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula said, adding, the changes gave the race "a real shot in the arm." 

Cycling Central will show highlights of the 2020 Melbourne to Warrnambool. Details TBC.