2012 Subaru National Road Series leader Mark O’Brien (Team Budget Forklifts) has claimed the honours on day two of the FKG Tour of Toowoomba on Friday, taking the stage win and claiming the overall Tour lead.
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 the efforts of his team that allowed him to conserve his energy for the end of the stage which featured a climb to the top of Fishers lookout in the Bunya Mountains, 1107 metres 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 the way his team mates controlled the bunch leading into the final climb.
The Victorian admitted he felt very confident heading into the second road race of the tour, after a week-long training camp in the Darling Downs region 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 second and Toowoomba-born Karl Evans (SASI) crossed the line for third.
Crawford lamented leaving his chase after 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.
The Tasmanian, who transferred to Genesys from a Taiwanese based team two weeks ago, arrived in Australia the day before the Tour and 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 two featured 126 kilometres of rolling hills with constant inclines and short sprints through tiny country towns, culminating in a punishing climb.
Throughout the race, riders were treated to cheers and waves from primary school children and cycling enthusiasts as they passed through the local towns in the region on their way to the mountain finish.
The race began at a blistering pace with riders quick to jump off the front. Ollie Martin (Pure Tas), Neil Van Der Ploeg (Search2Retain) and Jack Cummings(Jayco VIS) broke away inside the first 15 kilometres. The trio managed to gain a 21 second lead before the first incline of the day saw the peloton catch them.
A group of twelve riders later escaped on the narrow country roads before they too were reeled in by the relentless pace of the peloton.
Awarded most aggressive rider for the stage was young-gun Josh Taylor (GPM Wilson) after a 15 kilometre solo effort off the front. Taylor made his break at the 67 kilometre mark, gained a 46 second gap and collected three bonus points in the third intermediate sprint before the 20-year-old ran out of steam at 82 kilometres.
Timothy Cameron (Suzuki/Trek) launched a significant break before the final climb staying awar for seven kilometres as the peloton conserved their 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 at the front of the bunch.
Tour leader Brodie Talbot (Racing Kangaroos) led the pack at one point but couldn’t hold it as Team Budget Forklifts set up O’Brien for a clean run to the finish.
On the back of a strong team performance over the first two days O’Brien is confident he can secure the win.
“The single goal here is the win overall,” said O’Brien, “We want to just go for the individual classification.
“We knew that today’s race and the team time trial tomorrow are crucial so they’re our big goal,” he added.
Genesys-Wealth suffered a blow with two-time Tour of Toowoomba winner and 2010 NRS champion Patrick Shaw forced to withdraw due to a virus he's been battling for the past week. Despite this, Crawford believes his team is still in the hunt for a strong finish in the team rankings, but says they will need to “give it everything they’ve got” in the team time trial.
In the teams classficiation Budget Forklifts is second with SASI third.
Saturday’s action features a 12km team time trial around Kingsthorpe/Oakey ahead of the stage four 100km road race through the Oakey/Mt Tyson area of the Darling Downs.
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