Liam White has continued an impressive recovery from his accident in November, taking a gritty third place finish in Australia’s longest one day race: the 267km Melbourne to Warrnambool.
It’s been a long road back for White, who was involved in a crash in the final stage of last season’s Tweed Tour that saw him break his shoulder which subsequently required surgery to be pinned. White returned to the peloton for Nationals and the Santos Tour in the early months of 2021 but struggled. But on Saturday the boy from Bendigo returned to form, making a late breakaway of 17 riders and sprinting to 3rd place behind a late attack from eventual winner Jensen Plowright (Team Bridgelane).
After a tame start to the event along the Princess Highway, the peloton began their aggressions after 20kms and a 9 rider breakaway quickly formed which included Jordan Schmidt from Oliver’s. But with the ARA Pro Cycling Sunshine Coast missing the move: the strong Queensland based outfit controlled the pace of the peloton and ensured their advantage never reached more than 90 seconds.
With such a narrow time gap the temptation for others to join the breakaway was too great, and over the second King of the Mountains of the day attacks from the peloton brought the leaders back into the fold still with over 140kms of racing to go. A counter attack from Samuel Hill (Nero Continental) & Raphael Freienstein (InForm TMX MAKE) gained an advantage of 3 minutes quickly. An attempt was made by Oliver’s rider Brendon Davids to cross the gap to have the green team represented in the lead, but despite being joined by strongman Peter Milostic (Penrith CC) the duo could not cross the gap. The pair being reeled in after 60kms of chasing.
The lead pair gained an advantage of over 6 minutes as they hit the Great Ocean Road inside the final 80kms of the event. But with so much energy spent, and with the weather conditions quite favorable for the peloton, they were quickly caught inside the final 40kms.
With a cross-tail wind for the final portion of the race: there were numerous attacks off the front of the main field without success. But with 5kms to go the peloton hit a small rise, and quickly a 17 man group split away from the front and gained a gap. With White the only man representing Oliver’s in the group, the 26 year old used all of his experience and strong sprint finish to nap the final step on the podium, despite being outnumbered by 3 other teams.
“With Bridglane and Inform having 3 riders each in that last bit: I had to gamble to loose if I wanted to win. Unfortunatly Jensen got away and nobody chased, and in the sprint Ben [Hill] just got me. But as I said I’m happy to get on the podium for Oliver’s.”
Sam Layzell – Team Manager:
“Obviously we were in a position to win and Liam did everything he could at the end. If we just had a second rider in that last selection I think we could have pulled it off, and we will talk about that later as a team. But after such a long race everyone was on their hands and knees at the end there, it’s just the way it goes sometimes. If you told me we would be on the podium at the start of the day I would have taken that. There’s a lot of good teams and bike riders here today. But we are right there, on the podium, one of the longest races in the world. I’m happy!”
Full results here: