O’Brien seals Tour crown, extends Subaru NRS lead
Victoria’s Mark O’Brien (Budget-Forklifts) strengthened his stranglehold on the 2012 Subaru National Road Series lead with victory in the FKG Tour of Toowoomba at the weekend.
O'Brien finished 26 seconds ahead of team-mate Michael Cupitt in the overall standings, with Jai Crawford (Genesys-Wealth Advisers) a further eight seconds back.
Budget-Forklifts narrowly claimed the honours in the team standings finishing just two seconds ahead of Genesys-Wealth Advisers. RBS Morgans-ATS Pro Cycling finished third.
Currently in career-best form, the 24-four-old O’Brien was “over the moon” after adding to April's Mersey Valley Tour victory.
“Perseverance is the biggest thing. I’ve been with the same coach since ’02 and I think we’re finally starting to see the dividends pay off now,” O’Brien said of coach Tim Decker.
The effort of his Budget Forklifts team throughout the four-day tour, that which resulted in victory in the teams classification, was not lost on the Tour champion.
“You can’t really do this stuff without your team though, and they’ve done a huge amount of work so I’m just so thankful. They’re all top blokes too,” O’Brien added.
Jai Crawford's third place was welcomed by the strong Genesys-Wealth team following it's disappointing start to the Tour which saw the withdrawal of 2010 NRS champion Pat Shaw two due to illness after stage two.
Genesys-Wealth is eager to reverse the result when a full-strength team tackles the Santos North Western Tour in northern New South Wales next weekend.
Crawford, who only joined Genesys-Wealth few days prior to the Tour of Toowoomba, believes the team can improve on this performance in Toowoomba.
“I’m new to the team and some of the other guys are fairly new as well, so there are just some things we need to iron out (before the next tour),” Crawford said.
“But we’re strong enough and e can turn it around, we are going to learn from our mistakes and definitely going to come out and ride better in the North West Tour,” Crawford said.
The conclusion of the tour was celebrated with a fair in Queens Park in the heart of Toowoomba, showcasing some of the Darling Downs best arts, crafts and music as well as a host of local bike races prior to the men’s Subaru NRS criterium.
In Sunday’s fifth and final stage, a 50 kilometre criterium, it was young GPM Wilson rider Josh Taylor who surprised the field, sprinting home to take line honours. RBS Morgans team-mates Joseph Lewis and Ben Hill claimed second and third respectively in a photo finish.
The 20-year-old said he was surprised to come away with the win after spending 15 kilometres of Friday’s road race out in front on his own, but was excited to have held on for the stage win.
“I was very surprised actually especially because I was struggling a bit through the middle of the race,” said the Newcastle rider, “So this is definitely the best win in my career so far.”
Twenty-three-year-old Lewis said that although the team would have preferred the top of the podium, they couldn’t have been happier with their performances.
“Benny and I grew up together cycling in the same towns, so we go back a fair way. So I think this is a combination that we can use to win a lot of races this year,” Lewis said of the pair’s Hunter Valley cycling roots.
O'Brien (155 points) has extended his lead on the individual standings to 32 points over team mate Michael Cupitt (103 points). Genesys-Wealth's Nathan Earle is third on 90 points.
Budget Forklifts (198 points) leads the Team's classification ahead of Genesys Wealth Advisers (161 points) and Team SASI (115 points).
There is no rest for riders with the 2012 Subaru National Road Series continuing this weekend with the debut of the Santos North Western Tour.
The Tour, which takes in the Narrabri, Tamworth and Coonabarabran regions of northern NSW, is sure to be a blockbuster with both men and women to feature in the four-day tour.