After 267km and six hours and 24 minutes of racing, O’Brien was able to arrive at the finish line by himself after he rode away from his breakaway companions with six kilometres remaining to become the 108th winner of Australia’s oldest bike race.
“As everyone knows, I’m the slowest guy in the bike race, if I’m not solo, I’ve already lost,” O’Brien said.
“I had to try and drop Connor there, or else I was just riding for second. I was rapt I was able to get away and engage the old diesel mode.”
It took O’Brien 13 attempts to win Australia’s most prestigious race, but now the 36-year-old is stoked to have finally conquered the race that has eluded him for so long.
“This is lucky number 13 edition of the ‘Warrny’ for me, so to finally get the win after second, third, fourth and fifth, I’m pretty wrapped,” O’Brien said.
“To finally come and put my name on the honour roll, I’m over the moon.” “It’s a race I’ve always loved.”
Although today nearly didn’t happen for the veteran, a late decision to delay a family holiday ensured he could be on the start line at Avalon this morning.
It’s a decision he’ll savour for the rest of his cycling career.
“I wasn’t eventually mean to be here, I was meant to be in Adelaide with the family, but it was too good of an opportunity not to come.”
“I’m very thankful that my family let me come and race here today,” O’Brien said.
Connor Sens (St George) was the last rider to be distanced by O’Brien and managed to hold onto second place whist last year’s winner Tristan Saunders (Team BridgeLane) was the fastest from a small chase group claiming third.
O’Brien knew he had to “engage the old diesel mode” to stay away from Sens, the 36-year-old acknowledging the class of today’s runner-up.
“Connor and I have had some good battles” O’Brien said.
“He is a real strong guy so once I got away with him (Sens) I thought you beauty, but the only real chance I had to get rid of him was on the hill.”
“I had to try and give it some beans up there and hopefully try and drop Connor otherwise I would have just ridden for second.”
Earlier today, cool conditions greeted 172 riders in Avalon and there was immediate action once racing was underway, a crash inside the first 10-kilometres removing pre-race favourite Declan Trezise (ARA-Skip Capital) and Patrick Drapac (DUDA).
After a flurry of attacks, a move containing Jack Aitken (Royal Bikes), Samuel Eddy (St George Continental) and Nicholas White (DUDA) stuck.
The trio held a lead of five minutes at one point but were quickly hauled in with 100km remaining.
Aitkens made the most of his time out in front, sweeping the Deakin University Sprint Champion and SRAM King of the Mountains Classifications.
It was at the 50km mark that under-23 national champion Fergus Browning (Trinity Racing) split the peloton in crosswinds, opening the race up.
A group containing 20 riders went clear with 35km remaining, but the pressure was still on and six riders clipped off the front.
O’Brien’s years of experience kicked in, the veteran didn’t miss a move until Connor Sens attacked with just over 7km remaining.
On the last steep kicker before riding into Warrnambool, O’Brien rode across to Sens and then dropped him.
Holding off the chase, O’Brien arrived at Raglan Parade by himself with enough of a lead to soak up the atmosphere as he won the 2024 Powercor Melbourne to Warrnambool.
Adding to a successful day out, Aitken was the first local rider home taking out the Anchor Point Warrnambool Classification, Tyler Tomkinson (ARA-Skip Capital) was the Avalon Airport Young Riders champion and Team BridgeLane collected the Teams Classification.