Hundreds of cyclists conquered Mt Buninyong at the inaugural MARS Australian Gran Fondo Championships.
Under sunny skies a plethora of riders competed on the gruelling and world famous course on Saturday. Surrounding roads were closed off as the city’s elite cycling weekend commenced.
Riders from across Australia lined up along side the likes of Cycling Australia chief executive Nicholas Green, his Oarsome Foursome teammate James Tomkins, the voice of cycling Matt Keenan and former professionals Rochelle Gilmore and Baden Cooke, who have battled on the biggest stage.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Rochelle Gilmore relished the chance to compete again after recently retiring from professional racing.
“I’ve never really enjoyed the challenge of this tough course as an elite pure sprinter however, as a social cyclist I was able to push my body harder and embrace the atmosphere,” Ms Gilmore said. “I just loved being surrounded by enthusiastic cyclist pushing themselves to their limits around such a challenging National Championship circuit.”
Fresh off his ninth place in the elite men’s time trial, Nick Squillari won the Men’s 19-34 category and posted the second the fastest lap time of the day behind former professional and Giro d'Italia rider.
Cycling Australia’s Nicholas Green OAM enjoyed experiencing the pain of the effort the elite riders will go through on Super Sunday.
“It was hard, it’s a challenging race but great fun,” Mr Green said. It really gives you an insight into the course so when we watch it tomorrow for the men and women, and this afternoon for the under 23 men, you get an appreciation of what they’re doing, how hard it is, how fast they go.”
James Tomkins, echoed his Oarsome Foursome team-mate's words.
“Everyone along the side with all the tents set up and all the cars with music playing it’s fantastic. Anything for the punter to experience what it’s like for the elite is fantastic.”
Competing in the Men’s 60-64 category, dual Australian road champion Wayne Hildred had a great day on the big stage.
“Having people here like Phil Liggett and Dave McKenzie, it’s a real tribute to cycling, and to have it the day before the main event getting everyone involved like family and friends, it’s great," Mr Hildred said.
Multiple masters Australian champion Phillipa Read, set the fastest lap and claimed the women's 60-64 category.
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