Olympics beckon young bike star

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A LATE mishap fails to stop Victorian track star from going the distance on the road. ROD NICHOLSON reports:

YOUNG Victorian cyclist Kel O’Brien has added the Visit Victoria-Campolina-sponsored Tour of the Great South Coast to his illustrious record with a commanding victory in the longest event on the Australian National Road Series calendar.

O’Brien, a multiple world junior champion before joining Sam Welsford, Alex Porter and Leigh Howard to win last year’s Commonwealth Games gold medal before beating their own world record Team Pursuit time with a 3:41.012 ride at this year’s world championships, notched his first NRS tour victory to showcase his versatility on the road as well as the track.

The 21-year-old enjoyed an exceptional tour, collecting the Scody King of The Mountain and the Carlin & Gazzard-Jeep-Subaru Sprint Championship awards to add to his general classification success.

O’Brien didn’t finish the final stage in glory, however. He fell and injured his left hand around a back corner with two laps to go. “I got straight back up but I’m pretty sore,” he said. 

“I didn’t expect to win the tour when I arrived, but I bought some good form home from Europe. Now I will have a rest and continue preparations for the next Olympic Games.”

KEL O’BRIEN looking forward to bigger things to come.
KEL O’BRIEN looking forward to bigger things to come.

Teammate Welsford, who finished third at the final criterium of 30 laps of a 1.6km circuit of Portland’s waterfront, took out the Minijumbuk-Naracoorte Lucindale Criterium Championship.

The stage was won by former mountain bike champ Tristian Ward, 24, from New South Wales. He burst from the pack with almost 1km to ride and defied all challengers, leading home Melbourne-based German rider Raphael Freienstein and Welsford.

“I don’t pack the punch sprint of some of these guys, but my long sprint is alright. So, I decided to take off and hoped to hang on. It was a great way to get my first stage win on this tour,” he said having been involved since 2015.

South Australian youngster Jarrad Drizners won the CFMEU Rising Star Award and took over as leader of the Australian National Road Series.

Conor Murtagh won the final stage of the G. J. Gardner Homes-Naracoorte Lucindale Most Aggressive Rider award after he burst clear and led for five laps until overhauled on the final lap.

Young Victorian Patrick Burt won the Most Aggressive Rider for the tour overall.  

The Tour of the Great South Coast was backed by the Victorian State Government and four municipalities – the City of Mount Gambier, District Council of Grant and Naracoorte Lucindale Council in South Australia, and Victoria’s Glenelg Shire Council.

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Author: Rod Nicholson

ROD NICHOLSON is one of Australia’s best-known sports journalists. He reported cricket, football, racing and other sports for 47 years for The Herald and The Herald Sun.

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