STAWELL - The unstoppable 72-year-old greybearded Gary Saunders surprised no one but himself when he opened the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club season with a slogging win.
In the five kilometre Dooen Engineering Handicap in the Ironbarks Forest.
Clubmates know never to doubt the veteran who year after year has proven himself to be one of the most consistent winners.
"The win caught me off guard a bit, I usually take a while to get some race fitness into me.
"It often only comes late in the season, so it's a bonus to win so early," Saunders said.
In a rare all male triumph Saunders had almost two minutes to spare from reigning club champion Nathaniel Warren, with Peter Barham warming up late to finish less than 0.10 seconds away in third place.
The much improved Dave Hunter and endurance specialist Keiran Ryan completed the all male whitewash with Ryan recording fastest time of 18.21 minutes.
In 2013, there was only one all male clean sweep for the entire season.
Saunders said he owes much of his amazing resilience to a change of diet and a cross-training regime involving weights, pilates and pump at the Stawell YMCA.
"I've lost a lot of weight over the last couple of years and it's helped me maintain the little speed that I have," he said.
"I don't seem to be going backwards."
The club returns to the Ironbarks tomorrow for the five kilometre Barham Insurance Handicap.