Subaru National Road Series leader Mark O’Brien (Team Budget Forklifts) claimed the honours on day two of the FKG Tour of Toowoomba, taking the Stage 2 win and claiming the overall lead.
(My Team-mates) were just incredible out there, all I had to do was just sit there and enjoy the scenery.
O'Brien, the Mersey Valley champion, broke away from the peloton with just four kilometres to go and powered home over the gruelling mountain top finish to record the win.
The 24 year old praised his team’s efforts that allowed him to conserve his energy for the end of the stage which featured a gruelling race to the top of Fishers lookout in the Bunya Mountains, 1107m above sea level.
“They were just incredible out there, all I had to do was just sit there and enjoy the scenery,” O’Brien said of his team’s effort to control the bunch leading into the final climb.
The Victorian admitted he felt very confident heading into the second road race of the tour, after the team held a week-long training camp in the Darling Downs region recently to familiarise themselves with the course.
“I knew exactly how the climb went, I was ready for it,” O’Brien said.
Jai Crawford (Genesys Wealth) finished and Toowoomba-born Karl Evans (SASI) crossed the line for third.
Crawford lamented leaving his chase on O’Brien a little too late, conceding his unfamiliarity with the final climb was what held him back.
“I didn’t know the climb, I’ve never done it before,” said Crawford. “I expected it to continue steeper when Mark went and I thought I could just ride (the gap) back.
“But unfortunately it levelled off and there was a little bit of downhill and once he had the gap he had the gap.
“I regret letting him go there, that was a mistake,” Crawford said.
Tasmania’s Crawford, who only transferred to Genesys from a Taiwanese-based team two weeks ago and arrived in Australia the day before the Tour of Toowoomba, was pleased with his overall performance.
“I’m used to international style where it’s a little bit more controlled with more strong teams, but it’s definitely still hard because there are so many attacks all day and it’s pretty nervous,” Crawford said.
Stage 2 featured 126km of rolling hills with constant inclines and short sprints through tiny country towns, culminating in a the punishing climb.
The race began with a blistering pace set from the start, with riders quick to jump off the front, with Ollie Martin (Pure Tas), Neil Van Der Ploeg (Search2Retain) and Jack Cummings(Jayco VIS) three riders to make moves inside the first 15 kilometres.
The trio managed to gain a 21-second lead before the first incline of the day allowed the peloton to absorb it ahead of the midway point of the race.
A group of 12 riders later took its chance on the narrow country roads before it too was reeled in by the relentless pace of the peloton.
Awarded most aggressive rider for the stage was young-gun Josh Taylor (GPM Wilson) following his huge solo effort off the front for 15 kilometres.
Taylor made his break at the 67-kilometre mark and gained a 46-second gap , collecting three bonus points along the way in the third sprint section, before the 20 year old ran out of steam at the 82-kilometre mark.
Timothy Cameron (Suzuki/Trek) made the significant last break before the final climb, maintaining a lead for seven kilometres as the peloton reserved its energy for the mountain top finish.
A crash at the foot of the mountain rattled some of the riders, however the main contenders had already placed themselves in the lead of the bunch.
Tour leader Brodie Talbot (Racing Kangaroos) lead the pack at one stage but couldn’t hold on before Team Budget Forklifts allowed O’Brien a clean run to the finish.
After the team’s strong performance over the first two days, O’Brien is confident Team Budget Forklifts can secure the overall Tour win on the weekend after staying relatively quiet throughout the sprints and KOM’s.
“The single goal here is the win overall,” said O’Brien, “We want to just go for the individual classifications.
“We knew that today’s race and in the team time trial tomorrow are crucial so they’re our big goal,” he added.
Genesys-Wealth suffered a blow for the tour with two-time reigning Tour of Toowoomba champion and 2010 NRS champion Patrick Shaw withdrawing from the Tour after feeling the affects of his battle with a gastro virus during the week.
Despite this, Crawford believes his team is still in a strong position on top of the overall team rankings, but declared they will need to “give it everything they’ve got” for Stage 3's team time trial.
Team Budget Forklifts is second overall with SASI third in the teams general classification.
Today's action begins with a 12km team time trial around Kingsthorpe/Oakey at 9am local time before stage four’s 100km road race through the Oakey/Mt Tyson area of the Darling Downs beginning at 12.30pm.
Results: Stage 2
1 Mark O'Brien (BFL) 3hr 13min 08sec
2 Jai Crawfrd (GEN) +21
3 Karl Evans (SAS) +40
4 Matthew Marshall (TDU) +44
5 Alex Clements (PTD) +44
6 Michael Cupitt (BFL) +44
7 Nathan Earle (GEN) +44
8 Brodie Talbot (RKG) +1min 13sec
9 Jonathan Lovelock (GEN) +1:14
10 Phil Mundy (SAS) +1:14
1 Mark O'Brien (BFL) 6hr 23min 11sec
2 Jai Crawford (GEN) +25
3 Michael Cupitt (BFL) +35
4 Nathan Earle (GEN) +35
5 Karl Evans (SAS) +40
6 Matthew Marshall (TDU) +57
7 Alex Clements (PTD) +57
8 Brodie Talbot (RKG) +58
9 Correy Emed (BCC) +1min 24sec
10 Jonathan Lovelock (GEN) +1:25