n Road championship winner Jack Bobridge labelled his ride “redemption” for his disappointing 10th place in last Thursday’s men’s elite time trial. Photo: SuppliedSpratt flags Olympic selection with title win
Jack Bobridge produced arguably the most remarkable ride in n road championship history on Sunday, winning the men’s elite road race in Buninyong after spending more than 90 km on his own in front in searing heat that reached 33C degrees.
Bobridge, whose career has included successes and struggles on and off the bike, was in every key move of the day, from the very first attack that went early to the finish line.
In his first road race for the Trek World Tour team, Bobridge crossed the line after covering the 183.6km course in 4 hours, 40 minutes and 30 seconds. In second place to take the silver medal at 2m 52 s was West n Cameron Meyer (Dimension Data), while third for the bronze at 3:53 was Victorian Pat Lane (Avanti-Isowhey).
While Bobridge labelled his ride “redemption” for his disappointing 10th place in last Thursday’s men’s elite time trial, most who witnessed it lauded it as one of strength, guile and racing smarts.
Two such similarly impressive performances were his 2011 national road title win off the back of a 30km solo attack, followed by his 4000m individual pursuit world record ride that year.
Bobridge’s win on Sunday was not just a display of physical prowess.
It was also one of sheer intelligence as he explained about his management of effort once he got a nine-minute lead soon after half-way on the main climb of the 10.2km Buninyong circuit that the field had to race over 18 times, and was committed to a solo ride.
“I tried to break it up into sections, do the climb at threshold and all the descents I tried to ride 300 [watts] or less so I could always ride threshold on the climb,” he said.
“I knew that [for the riders] to take nine minutes [back] on the climb, if I am riding at threshold, these guys – most of the bigger guys are heavier than me – they are going to have to do stupid numbers … they were never going to pull back nine minutes.”
Bobridge was in the original 21 rider break that formed on the second lap, but on lap seven he and Bernie Sulzberger broke free while the group splintered behind them.
The lead pair worked well together and by the half-way mark their lead had grown to 9m 46s, but soon after on the climb of lap 10 Bobridge surged away from Sulzberger towards what would become of the most remarkable rides ever seen in the national titles.
Behind Bobridge, the peloton appeared reluctant to respond, although the size of it continued to diminish after Richie Porte (BMC) made a strong surge on a day that would eventually prove too hard for him as he fell off the pace two laps later.
It seemed that all were waiting for one of the two dominant forces in the peloton – the Orica-GreenEDGE and Drapac teams – to assume the chase and reel Bobridge in.
With eight laps to go, Orica-GreenEDGE put five riders on the front, the last of whom was Simon Gerrans, their main hope after losing sprinter Caleb Ewan much earlier.
But for Orica-GreenEDGE – the former team of Bobridge and Meyer – the race was over. They suffered their worst title outcome with sixth placed Gerrans their only survivor from the 15 finishers of 127 starters.
Incredibly, Bobridge still had a lead of 8m 30s after lap 13 and with 51km to go.
He even managed to increase his lap pace, bringing it down to 14m 48s on lap 14.
However, he admitted he suffered in those last laps, saying when asked how he felt in the final lap: “I won’t use the language but I was absolutely shagged.
“It’s the last lap of the national titles, if you just get over that you are going to win. So I just buried it … it wasn’t just that last lap, the last two three laps were pretty brutal.”
It was with 30km to go sparks started to fly from the peloton with Rohan Dennis (BMC) attacking, and then Gerrans and finally Meyer who attacked on lap 15.
Dennis followed Meyer, but with the gap to Bobridge still sitting at 6m 25s after lap 16 – and with 20.4km to go – it was too late to win. Meyer then soloed for second.