Tamworth's lone ranger Sam Hill (Nero Continental) has won his first National Road Series race in nearly two years at the 2021 Tour de Brisbane partnered with Splatt Lawyers, following a daring 50km breakaway with Joe Cooper (Giant Racing Team).
Hill launched a final attack in the final 500 metres to roll across the finish line solo ahead of NRS stalwart Cooper.
A mid-season transfer back to Nero Continental from Team BridgeLane has proved a happy homecoming for Hill, who last tasted glory at the NRS level during the 2019 Tour of the Tropics in far north Queensland with Nero.
"I feel on top of the world – I’m just full of adrenaline right now, you can’t beat it,” Hill said.
"I was fading at the end ... obviously I had great legs today, but the last 10km into town hurt so bad."
68 riders left the King St start line in the heart of Brisbane on a sun-filled winter's day, in what was the second edition of the Tour de Brisbane NRS one-day race.
An early crash coming out of the Legacy Way tunnel caused early panic in the peloton before a last-minute course change resulted in the NRS Men racing a shortened 108km race.
The course change resulted in a much earlier than expected ascent of Brisbane's famous Mt Coot-tha, with the early slopes of the lead-up to the climb allowing an initial four-rider breakaway of Aidan Sinclair (Oliver's Real Food Racing), Nick Pedler (NCMG Criterion Racing Team), Dylan McKenna (Nero Continental) and Damien Vesely (Tandem Co x Attaquer Pro Cycling) to form.
With the peloton splintering heavily behind, Vesely crested the first KOM point solo before being caught following the first descent of Coot-tha.
The next move would be a larger breakaway of several riders who were able to build a gap of 90 seconds to the chasing peloton on the fast highway sections of the course.
A quartet led by Hill and Cooper joined the front of the race heading into Birdwood Terrace, and the duo wasted no time in continuing with their attack, cresting the second ascent of Coot-tha together.
Their gap of 16 seconds over the major climb would stretch out to 30 seconds along the Western Freeway and would remain constant until the final time up Coot-tha, where Hill hit out solo in an unsuccessful attempt to drop Cooper off his wheel.
Unable to rid himself of Cooper, Hill reignited the breakaway relationship for the crucial 10km back into King St in Bowen Hills.
A final surge within the last kilometre proved the difference between Hill and Cooper, with the Nero rider rolling home with time to celebrate his maiden Tour de Brisbane win.
"It’s my strength to go long distance, I definitely prefer a much longer effort,” Hill said.
"(Mt) Coot-tha was great but it’s still only a seven-minute effort at the end of the day, whereas I much prefer going all-out for an hour and a half.
"When I saw a chance to get in a breakaway, even though it’s on a fast highway, I thought you beauty I’ll take this and I’ll just open the legs up and see what happens.
"I thought I was much stronger at that moment in the race before we hit the second climb, and Joe was a little hesitant to work with me because he thought it was useless with 20 guys chasing chopping off.
"I convinced him to roll through and then I thought he wasn’t pulling too hard, so I should be able to get rid of him on the final climb and I couldn’t, in fact he nearly dropped me at the top, so I knew I had my work cut out for me.
"But it turned out I needed him – I wouldn’t have stayed away on the last 10km stretch without him, so in the end I put in an attack which I think caught him off-guard with 500m to go."
Tandem Co x Attaquer Pro Cycling's Matthew Lambert won the Sprint classification, while Cooper took out the Mountain classification.
Oliver's Real Food Racing's Rhys Robotham won the Young Rider classification.