RIDERS geared up for what is arguably the Footscray Cycling Club's most gruelling event for the year, the 54th 3 Day Tour over the Queen's Birthday long weekend.
Stage 1 saw 50 riders in 3 divisions setting off on 'the race of truth', the Individual Time Trial around Kirksbridge; Stage 1 also doubling as the club's Individual Time Trial Championships.
In the Main Race, Ben Johnson blew away his competitors in the rain soaked event; Johnson powering around in 43:38 over 30 km's to be well clear of Adam Murchie and Daniel Hopper, who no doubt will have their work cut out for them to get back time lost in the next two stages.
Johnson thanked the Officials, Volunteers and Committee of the FCC for organising such a high quality event, and was full of praise for the generosity of the race sponsors.
Johnson also realises that he will have to tough out tomorrow to hold onto his lead, with 120 kilometers worth of hard racing and attacks to contend with.
In B-Grade, newcomer Mark Scouller just held off Craig Evans by 9 seconds with a time of 30:56 for 19.6 km's; the 24 year old Wyndhamvale mechanic making the best of the wet and cold conditions to take a slim lead into tomorrow's 100 kilometer race.
Scouller, who has been racing for 2 years, is being coached by Geelong's Kim Howard, and is already noticing the benefits.
''I started the year with lots of DNF's and a lot of hard training has made this a good day. The only thing is I've got a target on my back for the next stage.''
In C Grade, Shanon Williams took out the medallion with a time of 32: 41 over time trial expert Tom Gray, and in D-Grade, Glen Detering won with a time of 34:34 over 19.6 km's over veteran Dal O'Brien.
Stage 2 on Sunday saw riders tackle 120 kilometers at the Kirksbridge circuit near Little River in bitterly cold and wet conditions, and in the Main Race it was another dominant display by Ben Johnson.
At Harry's hill, Ben O'Leary, Trevor Hutchings and Tim Kirkham broke away from the bunch, and at 80 kilometers the Bikebug boys jumped across as well, with Johnson, Murchie and Morgan joining the breakaway three.
The relentless pace, rain and cold began to take their toll on the break, with Hutchings and O'Leary dropping off the back, and Johnson found himself driving the remaining four as his breakaway buddies were all suffering.
In fairness to Johnson's work, Ben took the race win from Morgan, Kirkham and Murchie.
In B-Grade, a decisive attack on Harry's Hill by Peter McQuade and Damian Harris saw the pair get away from the bunch, and this already strong pair was soon joined by Mark Scouller and Naish Chapman, and these boys stayed out in the clear of the hard driving bunch, taking first to fourth (Harris, Scouller, Chapman & McQuade in that order), Damian Harris just thrilled to take a well-deserved win.
Harris was heard to comment later that ''Wins for me are few and far-between, so I'll enjoy this one''.
In C-Grade, D-Grade regular and coming into form Glen Detering took the prestigious stage win from returning from injury and super strong sprinter Delphine Astier in second and veteran Tommy Gray in third.
Stage 3 saw the remaining riders ask their weary bodies to rise to the occasion once more, and complete 3 laps of the You Yangs circuit before that final push to the final finish line at the summit of the You Yangs, thankfully at last in sunshine for the first time in the whole weekend.
In the Main Race, young rider Josh Zammit proved that fortune favours the brave by breaking away with Ben O'Leary and Leigh Kelly; Zammit and Kelly holding off the chasers to take first and second place, with overall race winner Ben Johnson content with third and the coveted winner's sash.
In B-grade, after a long breakaway by the breakaway king Graeme Cole, overall winner Mark Scouller capped off a great weekend by taking the stage win from Paul Sheean in second and Naish Chapman in third. In C-Grade, overall winner Shanon Williams also capped off a great tour by taking the stage win from the ever surprising Glen Detering and Paul Beasley.