Victoria will host the world’s longest women’s one-day cycling race next year, writing a new chapter in the storied history of the Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic race.
- The Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic will host its first ever women’s race in February next year
- The race will run from Colac to Warrnambool with hopes to provide a platform for professional athletes to launch their careers
- It’s the first time an elite race has been organised by an all-female executive
The February 19 women’s event — running from Colac to Warrnambool and following the same route as the 126-year-old Classic — will be the first in the world to be organised by an all-female executive.
Event patron Tracey Laudry was the first woman to finish the 275-kilometre Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic in 1995.
“It takes somewhere between seven and nine hours to finish, that’s several marathons back-to-back,” she said.
The Olympic cyclist turned sports administrator hopes the new race will provide a platform for up-and-coming female cyclists to launch successful careers.
“Some of Australia’s best riders have made the dais, they’ve gone on to forge international careers overseas, so if you think of that backdrop that’s what we’re providing for women,” she said.
Ms Laudry said working with the executive team with “decades of experience” in the industry was exciting.
Current champ backs race
A string of successful women have built careers off the back of success in the “Warrny”.
Matilda Raynolds is the reigning female champion of the race and the first woman to defend her title last year.
“I did have a twang of disappointment that I wouldn’t try to do a three-peat … but that doesn’t help elevate women’s cycling,” she said.
She said she wanted to raise the profile of women’s cycling as the new event matures and, hopefully, attracts international cyclists.
“I’m incredibly grateful for the people that’ve come before me and paved the way. We get to stand on their shoulders and be a part of this event,” she said.
The event comes as the Tour de France unveiled its new women’s race to be held in 2022.
It hopes the race will become a permanent fixture on the women’s world tour calendar.
Growing costs, and boons, of cycling
The race has undergone many changes since its first edition in 1895.
Event director Karin Jones said logistics have become more costly as safety concerns have increased.
“We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars to put these events on. That ensures there’s no traffic on the roads during these two races,” she said.
Despite a significant initial outlay, Ms Jones expects an equally large return for the economies of Colac and Warrnambool.
Ms Jones said the race was hoping to provide a model for women’s sports more broadly.
“The difference will be the kilometres, no other difference,” she said.
“It will have equal prize money, it will follow the same course.”