HORSHAM cyclist Mark O’Brien believes he is in some of the best form of his career after a seventh-place finish at the Cycling Australia Road National Championships in Ballarat on Sunday.
O’Brien rode in the strongest field ever assembled at the championships, including 2011 Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, overall winner Simon Gerrans and other top riders such as Richie Porte and Luke Durbridge.
O’Brien, 26, rode strongly throughout the day and was part of a late breakaway that included the race favourites.
He attacked on the last lap at the base of the final climb, hoping to distance himself from the other competitors, but was reeled in by the race leaders.
O’Brien eventually finished seventh – 29 seconds behind podium finishers Gerrans, Evans and Porte.
It was his best finish at the championships after coming 13th last year and 12th in 2012.
O’Brien said he rode well enough to contend for a podium finish and could have been among the top three if not for some tactical errors.
“At the end of the day I was happy with the result somewhat, but I think I might have been riding even better than that in terms of my position in the race,” he said.
“I think if I had ridden a little bit smarter I might well have been there sprinting for a medal at the end.
“It’s still a good result though and it’s the best field they’ve had for the Australian championships so it’s a great achievement, especially against the company I was riding with.”
O’Brien said in hindsight it was easy to realise his mistakes, but he was comfortable with the decisions he made during the race.
He said his attack on the final lap, while unsuccessful, was an attempt to take on the best in the world.
“Darren Lapthorne attacked at the bottom and there was a chase and I could see that a lot of guys were really suffering,” he said.
“Sometimes when the race eases up for a split second, that’s when it’s good to attack and get a bit of a gap.
“At the end of the day, I could have just played the safe role and sat in and saved energy and been able to go with those front four at the top of the last climb, but I decided to roll the dice and go for glory.”
O’Brien said his strong result could lead to an invitation to ride in the Santos Tour Down Under.
He said riding in the Tour Down Under had long been one of his professional goals.
“It’s the biggest race in Australia and something I’ve always dreamed of doing so that would be very exciting for me,” he said.
“If that happens, that would be absolutely fantastic, but we’ll wait and see.
“After that I’ve got the Herald Sun Tour back in Melbourne at the start of February which is another big one so this is the most important time of year for me.”