• Kell O'Brien on the podium at the elite men's nationals road race (AusCycling/Con Chronis)Source: AusCycling/Con Chronis
Kelland O'Brien (Inform TMX MAKE) was pipped on the finish line of the nationals road race, just passed by Cam Meyer after launching from the final, select group in the home straight.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

7 Feb 2021 - 8:04 PM 

Kell O'Brien was all over the elite men's national road race. The rangy track and road star was part of the early break, then fighting to stay with best climbers as the race came together, going solo onto the last lap, getting caught, then launching a last-ditch attempt at victory only to be caught metres from the line.

"Yeah, so close," said O'Brien. "That last lap I wasn't sure what was going on behind me. I was cramping pretty bad on the climb. I ended up by myself which isn't really how I wanted it and in the end the group got back together and I thought 'I could be right here for the sprint'."

"Then I had a bit of momentum running at the guys in front of me so I thought I'd just go but I just got done on the line."

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O'Brien followed a move by Chris Harper (Jumbo-Visma) in defence of his teammate Luke Plapp, who at that stage was leading the race solo with a phenomenal show of strength to solo clear. Harper and O'Brien caught and dropped Plapp along with Seb Berwick (Israel Start-Up Nation) who had caught up briefly, but then Harper blew up dramatically on the final lap, leaving O'Brien by himself with almost an entire lap of the Mt Buninyong course still to race by himself with a chasing group breathing down his neck.

O'Brien was caught at the crest of the climb, forming a group of four which swelled to eight on the run to the finish. The tall team pursuit rider described what he was concentrating on as tackled the finale of the race.

"Just to breathe," said O'Brien. "I was struggling to hold off the cramps and I know at the end if you're going to sprint then you don't want to be cramping in that scenario. I was just breathing and trying to remain upon the right wheels. Unfortunately, Timmy Roe laid it down out there at the uni, fingers crossed he's alright."

The final moments of the 2021 elite men's national road race

O'Brien launched early with momentum, but couldn't quite hold on all the way to the line, passed by Meyer and leaving O'Brien looking on in despair as his track endurance teammate took the victory.

"Yeah, it hurts pretty bad right now," said O'Brien, "it's fire in the belly for next year."

O'Brien didn't just excel at the road race, he was third in the time trial, fourth in the criterium and finished with second in the marquee event. While he looked far from being in the mood to celebrate his achievements in the minutes after the finish, he said he'd look back with pride on the results.

" I'm happy with the overall results of the weekend," said O'Brien. "Obviously I wanted to win and I came here with the mindset of winning... it's a bit bittersweet, but that's all good for the future."

If the week of nationals racing has proven anything, it's that the track endurance team have several riders with very promising road careers ahead of them, with O'Brien's performances a confirmation of the talent against elite riders that he's displayed at times in the National Road Series and on the track

"I think us track riders get pigeon-holed a little bit," said O'Brien, "and I think this week we showed everyone that the track riders can perform on the road as well."