Shepparton's Steve Fairless and Mooroopna's Trent Stevenson will take on a number of powerful cycling teams when they contest the Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic.By Damen Francis
Eight Greater Shepparton cyclists help make up a record field of entries for tomorrow’s Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic.
More than 230 cyclists are expected to line up for the 98th edition of the Australia’s largest single-day race, which spans 256
Mooroopna’s Trent Stevenson and Shepparton’s Steve Fairless will tackle the A-grade title, while fellow Shepparton Cycling Club riders Travis Edwards, Neville Laffy and Paul Ranson will ride in C-grade and Jason Sherlock, Nathan Glynn and Warren Pickering in D-grade.
Stevenson said, with such a large field, tomorrow would be one of the rare occasions windy conditions would be a welcome.
‘‘If it’s windy, it’s good, because it breaks up a little bit early,’’ Stevenson said.
‘‘There’s over 100 riders in A-grade and you get a lot of B-graders and that, that just want to (finish the race), but in the early stages, because it’s such a big bunch it gets a bit hectic with crashes and that sort of thing, so you’ve just got to hope you stick clear of them and see what happens.
‘‘It’s meant to be a pretty strong head wind, so that will split the bunch up more than anything and cross winds at some stage will split it up more than the climbs.’’
Even when the real racing gets underway it won’t be an easy task for Stevenson and Fairless.
The pair is among 21 individual riders up against a host of powerful teams.
‘‘We will help each other as much as we can, but when you’re in a race like that with such a big bunch and so many other big teams you just do what you can,’’ he said.
‘‘If one of us can get up the road then all good, but you don’t have too much of an impact on the race when there’s only two of you.
‘‘You’ve just got to try and follow and hopefully one of us gets in the break or something like that.’’
This will be Stevenson’s 11th crack at the Classic and first since 2011.
In 2009 he finished fifth and in 2007 he won the sprint championship, while finishing 10th overall.
It is a new course this year and while Stevenson’s preparation has been a little short of road racing, he was looking forward to a good hitout.
The race will feature two intermediate sprints — one in Shelford and the other in Cobden — while a King of the Mountain climb will be contested in Camperdown.
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