Police believe at least six shots were fired at a bike rider at Everton on Saturday, with at least one bullet hitting him in the head and multiple rounds hitting his chest.
Investigators are appealing for information as a matter of urgency as the shooter is still on the run.
Detective Senior Constable Matt Prestage said it was initially thought a shotgun was used, but police now believe the rider was shot with a pistol.
“He’s extremely lucky, particularly being shot in the head,” he said.
“It fractured his skull but didn’t penetrate his brain.
“He’s in a serious but stable condition and is undergoing further surgery today.”
There were no witnesses to the shooting.
The victim, who has had no prior involvement with police, was found unconscious on the bike trail by passersby.
“The motive will be at the heart of the investigation,” Detective Senior Constable Prestage said.
“Whether it was a targeted attack against this person, or a random attack, is still to be determined.”
A Melbourne man spending a weekend in the North East has been shot multiple times while cycling in Everton.
Police were called to a section of the Myrtleford-Everton rail trail approximately five kilometres south of the township around midday, near the Burgoigee Creek crossing.
Wangaratta Detective Senior Sergeant Kevin Coughlan said police came across a cyclist on the ground with gunshot wounds and were treating the incident as an attempted murder.
“We are investigating what appears to be the shooting of a 74-year-old man who comes from Melbourne,” he said.
“He was up here on the weekend riding his bike.
“Sometime after midday, he’s been attacked on the rail trail … we believe he’s been shot multiple times.”
Detective Senior Sergeant Coughlan said a pair of cyclists came across the unconscious man soon after the incident occurred and contacted emergency services.
“It’s too early to say exactly the full circumstances in relation to what’s transpired here today,” he said.
“We have detectives from armed crime in Melbourne coming up here tomorrow, and they’ll be taking on the primacy of the investigation.
“At this stage were just trying to find out as much as we can about the circumstances, given the fact our victim is now being airlifted to Melbourne for further medical treatment.
“Someone has attempted to cause him some serious harm here today and we’re treating it as an attempted murder.”
Ambulance Victoria media spokesman John Mullen said paramedics were called at midday to an incident where a man had fallen off his bike and struck his head, but quickly grasped the situation upon arrival.
“He’s got some pellet (wounds) to various parts of his body but is in a stable condition going to the Alfred Hospital,” he said.
“The pellets were scattered; mostly upper body, some facial.”
Seven uniform officers and plain-clothed detectives conducted a line search across a kilometre-long crime scene, taking as evidence items including personal belongings on the man’s hybrid bike.
The scene was cleared at approximately 7pm.
Detective Senior Sergeant Coughlan said details were unknown about the offender.
“We still have sketchy details as to who that is and what they look like … we have nothing concrete,” he said.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Wangaratta Police on (03) 5723 0888 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.