Tristan Saunders (Team BridgeLane) won a headwind hit edition of the 267 kilometre Melbourne to Warrnambool on Saturday, launching solo with less than 20km to go and holding firm so he had time to savour the victory as headed toward the Raglan Parade finish line.
Saunders took out the prestigious Australian race in seven hours and 17 minutes as winds blowing from the west stretched out the hours and added an extra level of challenge to the already gruelling event, with recent editions more often delivering a winning time of close to six hours. The remaining podium positions in the National Road Series race were decided from a group of six, with Brendon Green (Cycling Development Foundation) attacking on the run in and holding the gap to take second place as he came over the line nearly three minutes behind the 22-year-old winner.
The final podium spot in the 2023 edition of the race, which first ran in 1895, was decided by a sprint from the remaining riders in the group, with Bailey McDonald (NCMG Criterion) securing third. Saunders teammate, Samuel Jenner, came in with that group to take sixth, holding in the chase even after having long been out the front in an early break. Once through the line he was quick to find Saunders and celebrate the team victory.
“I’m extremely happy and also extremely tired,” said Saunders when asked how he felt on the SBS livestream of the race. “I had the perfect ride, I was just sitting in the wheels. We were just so well represented from the gun really Sammy Jenner out there out the front, all I had to do was just sit there, me and Chappy [Tom Chapman] just following all the moves and I just had to go on my own in the end.”
Saunders, who was riding his fourth edition of the Melbourne to Warrnambool, initially went with a group of three, including Green and Bentley Niquet-Olden (CCACHE x Par Küp), but then struck out on his own,
“I was actually hoping that I could go solo because a few of the jumps my legs weren’t feeling great in terms of the sprint and then I was a bit worried coming down to a sprint how I was going to feel at the end,” said Saunders. “I tried to get away with those two and then the other two guys didn’t roll through so I thought, I’ll just go on my own and if they come back to me, they come back to me’ and if they don’t I’ll just put my head down and not look back and go to the line.”
Which is exactly what he did to secure a place on the honour roll of the event, which is…
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