LIMIT rider Ewyn Carter says he needed every minute he was afforded to win the Melbourne to Ballarat Cycling Classic in a sprint finish towards Kryal Castle.
His club mate Lynton Zawadzki (28-minute handicap) pushed him right to the finish line on Saturday afternoon.
Carter held strong, sitting right on Zawadzki's wheel, before making his move to claim what he says was a "surreal" victory in one of Australia's premier one-day cycling events.
"Best man to sit behind," Carter said, with Zawadzki one of the first to congratulate Carter and share a laugh post-race.
"That was my first handicap race - I think I might retire after that," Carter quipped.
"It was pretty cold out there and a bit surreal to win.
"All the boys (in the limit group) worked hard early and a couple of girls were in there too and pushed us all the way."
A carpenter by trade, 27-year-old Carter has been riding competitively for about 12 months.
The 104th Melbourne to Ballarat quickly put his race to the test.
In shades of early Tour de France style conditions, Carter said lead riders slowed to near walking pace when the 100-kilometre course, started in Rockbank, veered off the Western Freeway on to loose gravel near Ballan.
An out-and-back loop put riders back to the freeway near Gordon and Carter said he knew he had to "smash" an energy gel with only five minutes on the next bunch of riders and about 20 minutes on the scratch group.
The Bob Kelly-coached Carter crossed the line in two hours, 55 minutes and nine seconds off a 34-minute limit.
Defending champion, Ballarat's Pat Shaw, was 88th overall and crossed the line five minutes and 42 seconds behind Carter.
The Avanti professional cyclist clocked a time of 2:26:51 off scratch.
Fellow scratch rider Sam Crome (Bendigo and District) posted the fastest race time, 2:26:08.
Handy all-round cyclist Ashleigh Key was the first Ballarat-Sebastopol Cycling Club rider home. Key (24 minutes) finished in 2:48:15 and was 15th overall.
In-form Ballarat-Sebastopol youngster Liam White (six minutes) finished 23rd with a time of 2:32:13.
Bendigo and District rider Rachel Ward (28 minutes) was the first women's finisher and 12th overall, clocking 2:49:26.
Drizzling rain and cold may have reduced starters to 193 riders, with 10 riders abandoning the race.