BRENDAN Johnston's sixth time visiting Warrnambool will always be remembered fondly after he claimed the 104th edition of the Melbourne to Warrnambool.
The 28-year-old was not going to settle for two straight podium finishes in Australia's oldest one-day classic, beating former Australian road race champion Michael Freiberg (ARA Pro Racing) and Mark O'Brien (InForm TM Insight MAKE) in a bunch sprint.
The trio was part of a five-man break - including fourth-place Canadian rider Ben Perry (Israel Cycling Academy) and Sam Jenner (Team BridgeLane) - that rode away from an initial breakaway group of 27 at the 185-kilometre mark.
The group would stay together until the Hopkins Point Road when Jenner was dropped with under 10 kilometres to the go in the 267-kilometre race.
A wrecked Johnston, who splits his time between road and mountain bike racing, said it was good to top off a great summer of cycling with a win in the "Warrny".
"It's always pretty hard to finish with a sprint after 270k in the wind and the rain but the hard day suited me," the Canberra product said.
"I've done it six times now and did it when I was a bit younger then had a few years off and came back last year and got a podium (third) and then to get the win this year, I'm ecstatic."
The Team CCS Canberra rider, who claimed the Victorian 200-kilometre championship as a bonus, was watchful early on in the race to ensure he would be in with a shot for victory.
"You had to follow a lot and I had some good teammates that were helping earlier on, which is the hardest part of the race for me," he said.
"You have to find the right move and make it stick and we just ended up nailing it."
When the group of four cat-and-moused each other up Raglan Parade Johnston knew he just had to wait to ensure he had a good shot at the win.
"I didn't know about Ben (Perry) and the way he sprinted, I knew (Michael) Freiberg and I probably sprint similar after a long day," he said.
"Mark (O'Brien) is not known for his sprinting, he is more of a climbing specialist, so I kind of wasn't against it coming down to the sprint.
"That's why I didn't launch anything in the last five kilometres but I certainly wasn't overly confident going into the sprint."
Johnston and his team now takes the lead in the National Road Series heading into the Tour de Brisbane on April 5.
Best younger rider winner David Williams (Avalon Airport) leads the under 21 standings.
O'Brien didn't leave Warrnambool without a victory of his own, taking home the polka dot jersey as the winner of the king of the mountain classification.
Aidan Buttigieg (Cycle House Racing) won the sprinter's green jersey.
In the A grade Adrian Little (Carnegie Caulfield Cycling Club) took out the win from Alex Edney (St Kilda) and clubmate Brett Kingston.
The B grade was won by Aaron Groot (Carnegie Caulfield), who was followed closely by clubmate Andrew Kantor and Cameron McDonald (St Kilda).
C grade was won by Tim Van Der Schans (Colac). He finished ahead of Hawthorn Cycling Club pair Ryland Mollard and Chris Papakostas.
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