Mark O’Brien has won the 2024 Powercor Melbourne to Warrnambool, flying solo from the break with about six kilometres to go to claim his long pursued victory at the 108th edition of the historic Victorian event.
After 267km of racing and six hours 24 minutes and five seconds the 36 year old individual rider, who made a last minute decision to take on the race once again on Saturday, got to sit up and celebrate on the finish line on Raglan Parade in the heart of Warrnambool.
“This is lucky number 13 edition of the Warrny for me, so to finally get the win after second, third, fourth and fifth, I’m pretty wrapped,” said O’Brien, who in his black kit stood out among the team kit heavy National Road Series race. “I think I can hang the boots up on the Warrny now.”
In second it was Connor Sens (St George Continental) who crossed the line 31 seconds later. The Australian gravel champion had flown out of the lead group a couple of kilometres before O’Brien and while the race winner joined him for a short stint he then took advantage of a small climb to shed the rider from Bendigo and make the final charge alone.
“Connor and I have had some good battles,” said O’Brien in the post-race interview broadcast on the SBS livestream of the event. “He is a real strong guy so once I got away with him I thought ‘you beauty’ but the only real chance I had to get rid of him was on the hill after that. As everyone knows I’m the slowest guy in the bike race so if I’m not solo I’ve already lost.
“I had to try and give it some beans up there and hopefully try and drop Connor as otherwise I would have just ridden for second, because that’s still a bloody good effort. I’m wrapped that I was able to get away and engage the old diesel mode.”
The 2023 winner, Tristan Saunders (BridgeLane), claimed third after taking the sprint from the chase group of seven that crossed the line 50 seconds behind O’Brien. Jack Aitken (Royal Bikes) claimed both the sprint and mountains prize, after his efforts out in an earlier break of three which stayed away for around 100km of the race.
Beginning at Avalon airport on the outskirts of Geelong, about 50km away from its historic starting point in Melbourne, the race which first ran in 1895 rolled inland through Colac and hits the coast at Port Campbell before heading up to Warrnambool and the Raglan Parade finish line.
How it unfolded
The peloton of 172 riders rolled out in mild conditions from Avalon and while…