The first race of the NRS 2020 Series and the 104th edition of the Powercor Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic was won today by Brendan JOHNSTON from Team CCS Canberra Men’s after 6h16m in the saddle.
He won a four-rider sprint to the line, beating Michael FREIBERG (ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) and Mark O’BRIEN (Inform TM Insight MAKE) to the line with Israel Start-Up Nation Benjamin PERRY rolling in just behind for fourth.
Under grey and rainy skies, the peloton rolled out from Avalon Airport this morning – destined for Warrnambool 262km away. The course took the peloton through some of South Western Victoria’s greatest landmarks and towns including the Great Ocean Road and Port Campbell.
On their way, the peloton came up against some tough rolling terrain including a gruelling three-kilometre South West TAFE King of the Mountain challenge at the 115km mark, just outside of Colac. It was Mark O’BRIEN who claimed the crown and took home the polka dot jersey.
It took nearly 140 kilometres for a break to establish and eventually, three groups attacked and got away before merging to form one leading group of 37 riders.
As the peloton reached the latter stages of the race, a breakaway of five riders formed as the leading group rolled through Timboon near Port Campbell along the iconic Great Ocean.
The five rider break included PERRY, O’BRIEN, JOHNSTON, Sam JENNER (Team BridgeLane) and FREIBERG.
At the 200km mark, Johnston showed his strength and form, winning the final intermediate sprint of the day known as the ‘Victorian 200km Championship’.
With 62km to go, a gravel sector, coastal winds and huge distances took its toll on the chasing group, with the time gap blowing out to over four minutes. An optimistic chase group of three also failed to bridge the gap.
Into the closing kilometres, the attacks and pace proved too much for Jenner who dropped off with 8kms to go, leaving the four riders to battle it out for the eventual sprint finish. The peloton finished +7mins11secs behind the winner.
Following his triumph, Brendan JOHNSTON (CCS) said,
“I can’t believe it, even for myself to get into that move out of the mess at the start. It’s a full lottery. We got a big group away, then it came back and on one of the climbs about five of us went and I was pretty happy with that move. Just to get into that move was half the battle for me,” said Johnston who finished third in 2019.
“ I’ve loved this race since the first time I did it, it’s just incredible, I can’t believe I won the sprint!
“To get the win, I’m just ecstatic.
“After a long race I can kind of hold my own okay, I went pretty early, like really early, with 100metres to go my legs literally stopped rotating pretty much. I can’t believe it.
“I’ve done this race many times, when I was really young, I had a good ride and made it to the front group. Since then I’ve had it stuck with my that I wanted to win that race.”
Second placed Michael Freiberg said:
“I had looked at the course beforehand online but it was a lot hillier than what I raced in 2017 but we got 5 of us away with 95kms to go and that got us to the line.
“That was a really difficult split, it really split on the climb and I was in a bit of trouble but you could feel it that if you weren’t there, that was going to the line because all the best guys were there. I made sure I was there and it paid off in the end.
“I’m pretty happy with myself making all the right moves but just missed out at the end by a few seconds, just waiting a bit long to jump but it was a good day.”
- Brendan JOHNSTON (Team CCS Canberra Men’s) 6h16:03
- Michael FREIBERG (ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) +0
- Mark O’BRIEN (Inform TM Insight MAKE) +0
TEAM CLASSIFICATION RESULTS:
- Team BridgeLane 18h49m52s
- InForm TM Insight MAKE +12:39
- Avalon Airport +12:39
DEAKIN UNIVERSITY SPRINT CLASSIFICATION RESULTS:
- Aidan BUTTIGIEG (CHR)
- Jack AITKENS
- Michael FREIBERG (ACA)
SOUTHWEST TAFE KOM RESULTS:
- Mark O’BRIEN (INF)
- Mathew ROSS (CHR)
- Brendan JOHNSTON (CCS)
AVALON AIRORT YOUNG RIDER:
- David WILLIAMS (AVV)
- Tristan SAUNDERS (VDR)
- Sam FOX