41st Preston Mountain Classic
4th of June 2017
The Preston Mountain Classic is an annual handicap road cycling race which is held around the last weekend of June and is an integral event on the Cycling Victoria calendar. Traditionally the event has attracted elite riders from across the state and country and has come to be known as the baby sister to the prestigious Melbourne to Warrnambool and Melbourne to Ballarat handicap events, Victoria’s equivalent to the one day classic races throughout Europe.
The Preston Mountain Classic was first run in 1976 as a handicap event for Amateur Riders only (at the time cycling had two segments Amateurs and Professionals –or Pros). In 1983 the event became a Pro-Am Handicap and then throughout 1984 to 1987 it became a “Mass Start Event” (or scratch race) for the cream of Amateur and Pro riders with invitations sent to the top 60 riders of the time. 1988 saw the event revert back to a handicap for Senior Amateur riders only and remained so until 1993 when both Amateurs and Pros came under the same code. The event held this structure until 2004 when a second race was incorporated for Masters Men and Women, with the Seniors race now being available to Elite and Under 19 men only. The final change to the race occurred in 2012 when women entries demanded a separate race of their own, so in its current format the Preston Mountain Classic Handicap cycle race caters for 3 separate events held on the day.
Recently the Preston Mountain Classic has met its capacity of riders permitted to participate in the event 250 overall, and historically the event attracts around 230 – 250 riders.
Prize money is paid to the winners, place getters (Elite men and under 19 down to 5th place) and fastest times, this has totalled around $3,500 – $4,000.
Along with this Preston Cycling Club and the Preston Mountain Classic is well known amongst cycling circles for providing a hearty warm meal at the presentation for riders, sponsors and officials – the only race in the state (and maybe even Australia) to do so.
The Preston Mountain Classic has always incorporated either a climb over Kinglake or Murchison Gap, hence the name “Mountain Classic”. The current course commences at Strath Creek, around an hour’s drive north of Melbourne, the riders head out of Strath Creek along Broadford-Flowerdale Rd and then turn left along the Whittlesea-Yea Rd towards Yea. It’s along this road that the riders will climb the infamous “Break of Day” climb and then descend at speeds of 70km per hour before reaching Yea. A second left hand turn onto the Goulburn Valley Hwy takes the riders over undulating road to King Parrot Creek Rd where they again descend back towards Strath Creek. Upon reaching Strath Creek, Elite and Under 19 riders begin their second loop of the course whilst Masters and Women Riders make their way up a 1.8km, 8.5% gradient climb of Murchison Gap. Elite and Under 19 riders get to test their skills on Murchison Gap after completing their second loop of the course. Overall 143kms are covered by the Elite Men and Under 19s, with the Masters Men and Women completing 74kms.
The Honour Roll
Whilst there have been many quality riders participate, ride the fastest time and win the Preston Mountain Classic some of the more well known riders have included:
- Gary Hammond
- Peter Besanko
- Stuart McKenzie
- Dean Woods
- Shane Sutton
- David Tanner
- Mitch Docker
- Kathy Watt
- Alex Morgan
- Both David Tanner (Belkin Pro)*
- Mitch Docker (Orica Greenedge)*
*Currently racing in UCI Teams throughout Europe
Kathy Watts’ victory came against masters men when this was a combined race, no doubt you’re aware of her Olympic and Commonwealth Games achievements. Young Blackburn Cycling Club star Alex Morgan won both event and the fastest time as an under 19 and is now a world pursuit champion from 2013 and has recently been a member of the BMC Racing development Squad.