Victoria's Mark O'Brien (Budget-Forklifts) and Queensland's Ruth Corset (Pensar-Hawk Racing) triumphed in wintery conditions to claim the stage three honours in the Santos North Western Tour on Friday
Victoria's Mark O'Brien (Budget-Forklifts) and Queensland's Ruth Corset (Pensar-Hawk Racing) triumphed in wintery conditions to claim the stage three honours in the Santos North Western Tour on Friday.
Riders were greeted with sub-zero temperatures at the start of the day in the regional town of Coonabarabran, with the mercury failing to hit double figures throughout the stage to the Siding Springs Observatory.
In the men's 126km race, O'Brien broke through the peloton on the final, treacherous climb to the finish in the dense fog ahead of Jai Crawford (Genesys Wealth Advisers PCT) and Cameron Bayly (Search2Retain Cycling).
Similarly, Ruth Corset managed to skip clear of the women's field near the end of the 74.6km race to take a solo victory. Victorian pair Miranda Griffiths (Holden Cycling) and reigning NRS series leader Lisa Jacobs (Carnegie-Caulfield CC) claimed a podium finish.
Men's Stage 3
O’Brien again showed his love for big hilltop finishes after coming from behind to blitz the field, taking the stage by 36 seconds over Jai Crawford (Genesys Wealth) who finished 15 seconds clear of Cameron Bailey (Search2Retain).
O’Brien showed just what he can do on a mountain, hunting down the race leaders who had enjoyed a breakaway for almost 47kilometres of the 127 kilometre stage.
The win moved the Victorian into the overall Tour lead, with O’Brien now holding a 42 second advantage over Crawford and is almost a minute ahead of teammate Michael Cupitt.
The Subaru NRS leader credited his Budget Forklifts teammates for what was a strong effort to gain the break back in time for his power to the line.
“Team mates, that’s all I have to say, they got the break back to within striking distance and I just had to finish it off from there,” O’Brien said. “I was pretty nervous as there were some great climbers in the break like Jai Crawford, Jonathan lovelock as well."
It was the Genesys Wealth team who were the agressors, setting the pace and being involved in the majority of attacks.
The major break of the day came at the 80 kilometre mark when 19 riders went off the front, including Genesys’ Jai Crawford, Pat Shaw and Jonathan Lovelock as well as Budget rider Brien McLeod.
The group managed to forge a one-minute gap, working together for almost 30 kilometres before the final ascent began to take its toll.
As the men headed up into the dense fog which layered the top of the mountain, only a group of six managed to hold their lead from the fast paced peloton.
It was then that O’Brien made his move and with the leading riders in sight, the 24-year-old surged through the bunch to easily catch and pass Crawford, Bailey and teammate Michael Cupitt.
O’Brien's win takes Budget Forklifts to equal standing with Genesys Wealth on the overall team rankings, with Search2Retain third.
Women's stage 3
In the women’s event, former Australian road champion Corset finished 11 seconds ahead of Miranda Griffiths (Holden Racing), with NRS Series leader Lisa Jacobs (CCCC) a further 30 seconds back in third.
The win catapulted Corset into the Tour leaders jersey, with the Queenslander now 33 seconds ahead of Griffiths and over a minute ahead Jacobs.
After taking out the Battle on the Border in March, the mother of two revealed it was tough to stay motivated with the frosty weather and light rain for the best part of the race.
“It was freezing, I was shivering. It was hard (to concentrate) and I just saw these cars going past and I thought ‘oh it would be nice just to jump in,’” she Corset exclaimed.
The 35-year-old was relentless on the climb, attacking her leading partners until finally cracking the pair to break away within the final three kilometres.
“It was a nice long climb which really suits me and at the end there were just three of us,” Corset explained.
“Miranda was keeping a good pace at the front, I kept trying to attack to get away but she just kept getting on my wheel and Lisa was sitting on the back of us.
“With about 2.5k to go I could see she was suffering a bit so that’s when I put in my big attack and got away,” Corset said of her race tactics.
Third placed Jacobs was looking forward to the tough third stage stating that the “hills are where I love to be", however conceded she was beaten by a better athlete on the day.
“I tried to stay with Ruth and Miranda as long as I could,” said Jacobs, the current Subaru NRS Series leader. “(But) Ruth’s just a classy rider and that’s what the NRS is all about, the best riders in Australia come to the front and Ruth showed us she is the best rider in Australia today."
Despite leading the series, Jacobs is competing in the North West Tour on her own, representing the Carnegie Caulfield cycling club, rather than her Jayco-VIS team.
“The great thing about not having a team is that I don’t have any pressure to make any moves, but I do have to race smart,” Jacobs said.
The days racing began at a slow pace, with the women keeping a close watch on each other as they battled wet roads, cattle grids, clay and gravel.
The bunch broke up after the first QOM section, just 18 kilometres into the 76km stage, after a group of eleven riders, including Corset, made their move during the first steep descent of the day.
By the 48 kilometre mark and after 30 kilometres in front, the lead group was caught, meaning the race would come down to a battle of the climbers.
Corset, Griffiths and Jacobs broke away from the peloton with 10 kilometres to go, with two main chasing groups desperately trying to reel in the trio.
As the fog closed in at the Siding Springs Observatory, Corset’s experience was too much as she broke away from the pair to take the win in near freezing temperatures.
Corset's win puts Pensar-Hawk in the lead on the teams general classification, ahead of Holden Cycling, second and Suzuki/Trek third.
Stage 4 for both men and women will be held on Saturday, with the men to tackle a 138km course from Siding Springs Observatory to Gunnedah, whilst the women cover 111km as they make their way across to Gunnedah from Coonabarabran.
Capturing the regional centres of Narrabri, Coonabarabran, Gunnedah and Tamworth, the Santos North Western Tour features five stages across four days from June 21-24.
It is the third event for both men and women in the 2012 Subaru National Road Series.
Full review, photos and results to follow.
Follow the Santos NWT online:
Twitter: @cyclingausroad, @cyclingnsw #santosnwt #nrs12
Cycling NSW - Andrew Newton, 0410 179 269