The Ballarat Cycle Classic hit its $300,000 fundraising goal for the Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute as cyclists from the inaugural SPUD100 ride began rolling through the finish line.
The money will kick-start a groundbreaking new research investigation to help identify cancer proteins and potentially make treatment easier for patients.
More than 2300 riders, walkers, rollerbladers, unicyclists, and dogs hit the various courses, from the muddy mountain bike challenge and a misty road ride across the district, to laps of Lake Wendouree for those looking for a leisurely morning out of the house.
It was Gail Elsey's daughter Fiona who made it all happen - her dream was to help others through research, before she died in 1991 aged just 14.
FECRI is named after her, and the Cycle Classic is the institute's major fundraiser for the year.
The institute has produced globally-recognised research into a number of cancers and treatments, including groundbreaking work on bowel cancer.
For the first time, all money raised at the Cycle Classic will be targeted toward a specific project - in this case, aggressive breast cancers.
Gail is still part of the action - on the day, she was effervescent at the event village, welcoming old friends and campaigners and cheering on riders crossing the line.
She was powered by hugs, she said.
READ MORE: Fiona Elsey's legacy, 30 years on
"Cancer touches everybody, but I think it's good if you can all come together, and work together, you can improve life and bring people hope," she said.
"When I look back with Fiona, there was nothing available 30 years ago, fast forward, you see what's available, and that's what she wanted - for people to have the opportunity to have choices, options, better treatments, better outcomes, and to be able to continue to have a full and active life."
She said the event, which has been running for more than a decade, was continuing to grow, which was good news for the research institute as it looks to expand its operations.
"I think it's going to make such a difference - when you have people that are battling this disease, they look at what's happening around them, so it's giving them hope," she said.
"This year, with the breast cancer research program up and running, it's very promising but it's going to be such a benefit to so many people."
Ms Elsey and FECRI's honourary director Professor George Kannourakis both thanked the community - from participants to sponsors to the dozens of volunteers - for helping make the event a success.
Professor Kannourakis, who completed the 28 kilometre adventure ride, added the research will begin within two weeks.
"We've got (a scientist) who's already interested and keen to come," he said.
"It's a new technique - we ended up finding some proteins present on leukaemia and ovarian cancer cells that may make the immune system unable to see the cancer - they contribute to what's called the fog around cancer.
"That fog needs to be lifted - once we identify proteins, we can make the things that neutralise the proteins, called antibodies, and those antibodies will stop the fog so the immune cells can attack it.
"That's how most cancers will be treated in the future."
Creating unique responses for each patient based on a "barcode" is the target.
"We don't know what the other barcode proteins are yet, so we don't know how to neutralise them all, so that's what the FECRI is doing, we're trying to work from different angles," he said.
"I reckon it's all going to happen in five years.
We have a bit of a niche area here in Ballarat, because we've been working on this immune system since the laboratory was opened in February 1998."
As well as the focus on research, the event also celebrated the contribution of long-time supporter Danny Frawley, who died last year.
The 160 kilometre SPUD100 was the most difficult ride - the early start meant riders faced fog, rain, headwinds, and more as they journeyed across the countryside.
"I found it extremely challenging, but I was thinking of Spud on the way around and that made it more tolerable," he said.
"We did a lot of rides with Spud up here, Michael Roberts, Mark Foley and myself, and that's what he would have wanted, for us to work hard, push through the pain barrier and know that we did it.
"We didn't really have a chance to sit up and smell the roses, so to speak, it was quite challenging road conditions, so you had to be focused and make sure you had your bike in the right spot."
Despite the pain, he added he's keen to return next year already.
Former Australian road cycling champion Shannon Malseed was the event's MC, and said while it was a different experience on the other side of the fence, it was rewarding to help the cause.
"It makes you proud to be part of the Ballarat community," she said.
"I've got a bit of a fever to get out and ride a bit later - it's so awesome to see so many people on bikes, and people on one wheel, there's a team of unicyclists out there as well."
Even for people who aren't professional cyclists or former AFL players, it was a grand day out.
Brad Eppingstall rode the family-friendly course around the lake with his mates in previous years, but since he was on his own this year, he decided to challenge himself on the mountain bike track.
"It was great, the trails were good, it was a bit wet out there but there was some mud, and there's no wind in the bush, which was better than the road riders," he said, grinning from ear to ear.
"There was a bit of atmosphere with the mist and fog around, it was really nice."
After taking on the 60km road ride, Danny Grellet was relaxing in the event village with a well-deserved beverage in hand.
"Pushing out there was a fierce headwind, and when we got to Buninyong we were pretty buggered, but the push up the hill was brutal - by the time we got to the top of the hill it was a bit easier," he said.
"I didn't realise the terrain out there was so beautiful, it's a really nice part of Ballarat I've never explored before."
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