It was a perfect day of racing for the historic Powercor Melbourne to Warrnambool with a legend of the sport in Cadel Evans getting the race underway and a new legend created as Cameron Scott took out a dramatic victory in front of the assembled crowd at the Warrnambool finish.
Scott (ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) stunned the peloton with not so much the result as one of the favoured riders, but the manner of victory as he jumped away in a solo attack which he carried through all the way to the finish on Raglan Parade. Scott saluted just metres ahead of the onrushing peloton, led home by Brenton Jones (Inform TMX Make), to take a momentous victory in his career.
“As far as road results go, it’s probably the best one for me,” said Scott. “It wasn’t a typical way of winning, by myself as opposed to a bunch sprint, really happy I could pull something off.”
The quietly spoken Scott is rarely outwardly emotional but the joy and relief of his win in the oldest and longest race in the Australian cycling calendar was evident in his post-race interview, where he revealed that the attack hadn’t been in the plans at all.
“The plan was to sprint for my teammate Craig Wiggins,” said Scott. “My legs felt a little heavy and he didn’t have to do much the whole race, so I was going to do the job for him.
“After I saw James Whelan and Liam Johnston go with about a kilometre and a half to go, I knew I couldn’t let that happen and jumped across to them. I looked back and saw there was a bit of a gap and I just committed.”
Scott had a good lead entering the final few hundred metres, but the rapidly closing bunch came very close in the finale to overhauling him.
“They had definitely run out,” said Scott of his legs in the approach to the line. “I tried to get out of the saddle and give it everything I had and luckily I had enough to just hang on in the end.”
The 106th edition of the Powercor Melbourne to Warrnambool got away in near perfect conditions, with a light cross-tailwind present for most of the course. Australian cycling legend Cadel Evans was at Avalon Airport to start the race and talk to the competitors.
There were a few early breakaway attempts made, with Kael Thomas (Butterfields p/b Van D’am) a serial attacker from the peloton. Those initial attempts came to nothing, but the move eventually formed 68 kilometres into the race, with Aidan Buttigieg (Nero Continental) making the initial move, followed by seven other who caught him as the peloton sat up behind and let them gain a bit of a lead.
Cyrus Monk and Terrance Hore (CycleHouse), Aidan Buttigieg (Nero Continental), Matt Sherwin, Edwin Britts (Oliver’s Real Food Racing), Tim Cutler (CCS Cycling), Jason Thomason (Butterfield p/b Van D’am), Callum Pearce (Onyva Racing) formed a good working partnership and started pushing out their lead.
It peaked at a maximum on six minutes and 20 seconds, and Inform TMX Make went to the front of the peloton to make sure the leader’s advantage didn’t get out of hand. The gap fell to five minutes before the break redoubled their efforts, keeping their lead stable.
Through the SRAM Mountain climbs it was Thomason who was the strongest, just edging out Britts, with Buttigieg the fastest in the sprints as he took out the Deakin sprint jersey and the 3YB Coast FM Victorian 200 kilometre championship by being the nippiest in the dashes to the line on the flat.
The peloton was rapidly closing by this point as attacks at the front of the bunch in the windy sections of the Great Ocean road saw riders dropped and teams scramble to make sure that they were represented in any move that went away.
The increased pressure saw the strongest riders in the break assert themselves and attack, with Cutler leading the aggression, with Monk and Buttigieg the only ones able to follow. The trio upped the pace, able to hold onto their three-minute advantage.
Scott followed a dangerous late move containing James Whelan (Team Bridgelane) and Liam Johnston (Inform TMX Make) then saw the opportunity to make his own attack and railed along the barricades into the finish. He faded as he approached the line, but it was too late for the fast-finishing peloton to catch him and Scott secured a tremendous victory.
The Wagga Wagga local Scott was nearly nabbed on the line by Brenton Jones with the sprinter disappointed to have ridden so well but not be rewarded with a victory.
“That’s the closest I’ve ever been and it hurts a bit knowing that I was the fastest there in the finish,” said Jones. “Cam did a pretty nice attack there, maybe I could have done a similar thing, but we were all together and I thought I’d trust my legs this year to win the sprint. And I did, but second in the end… came very close to catching him on the line.
“Good work for Cam, but I’ve finished second to him enough times, no more, I’ll have to try and take the top step next time.”
Stewart was very happy with his third-placed finish, which along with his recent Tour of Gippsland results is showing a healthy progression for the Nero Continental rider, who his team believes is the first Indigenous rider to podium in the Powercor Melbourne to Warrnambool.
“I’m over the moon. The last 50 kilometres I went with a couple of moves, but I knew it was pretty crucial to look after myself as I knew I had in within myself today. Brenton and I were neck into the finish, pretty close top three. It was awesome.
“Next race, I want to be on top of the podium, there’ll be some hard training by I reckon I’ll get there.”
Full results here available via the Auscycling site here.