Jack Bobridge gives the performance of a master

Tim Renowden Columnist

By Tim Renowden, Tim Renowden is a Roar Expert


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    Jack Bobridge is part of Australia's men's team pursuit team in their crack at a gold medal. (AAP Image/POOL/John Veage, Tour Down Under)

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    Sometimes in sport you see performances of such strength and authority that the only adequate response is to stand back and marvel.

    Jack Bobridge’s victory in the Australian road race championships was one of those rides that almost defied sense, a masterful raid that ripped apart a peloton of Australia’s best, on one of the toughest days of bike racing you will ever see.

    Cameron Meyer (Dimension Data) showed the motivation and freedom of a new team to claim the silver medal, and Pat Lane (Avanti Isowhey) richly deserved his surprise bronze.

    Simmering in the heat of Mount Buninyong, thousands of fans lining the route saw a race short on tension, but so it goes when someone produces such a masterful performance.

    Such was Bobridge’s dominance that the spectacle was a matter of disbelief turning to admiration and then into outright awe as the peloton imploded behind him and the result became clear.

    Jack Bobridge, the mercurial one.

    This was an outrageous feat of daring and strength. Nearly a year ago the world watched him tear himself apart on the velodrome in his failed attempt at the Hour. Yesterday he tore some of the best in the world apart, with a race-long breakaway, in the heat, over four and a half hours.

    He rode more than half the race by himself, with some of the world’s best riders chasing him, and held them off. Not just held them off, he forced them out of the race.

    Out of 127 starters, only 15 men finished the race. An attrition rate of 88 per cent. The cream of Australia’s National Road Series and hardened World Tour professionals alike had their arses handed back to them by a man with half his focus on Olympic gold on the velodrome.

    It was a trainwreck for Orica-GreenEdge, with only Simon Gerrans managing to finish. Truth be told, the team looked rattled from the beginning, only briefly showing the kind of organisation and control they have become renowned for in previous years.

    For a couple of hopeful laps, Mitch Docker, Michael Hepburn, Jack Haig, Damien Howson and Luke Durbridge seemed capable of dragging Gerrans up to Bobridge, but the effort was too much in the heat, the gap barely moved, and carriages started popping off the OGE train blowing steam.

    As I wandered back down the hill to see the finish, I spotted OGE bosses Gerry Ryan and Shayne Bannan deep in conversation in the feedzone, wearing philosophical poses but surely wondering how it all went wrong for the second year in a row.

    At least they had two ex-teamies on the podium.

    World Tour teams still dominated the top five spots, but it was Bobridge’s Trek-Segafredo on top step, with Dimension Data (Cameron Meyer and Nathan Haas) and Tinkoff (Jay McCarthy) joined by New Zealand-based continental squad Avanti Isowhey (Pat Lane) defeating the numerically superior OGE and Drapac squads.

    Avanti Isowhey deserves special praise: with third, eighth, ninth and 12th position they had more finishers than any other team. On a results-per-dollar-spent basis, they won by several laps.

    To be fair on the OGE boys, many big names suffered badly. Richie Porte’s first outing in his new BMC colours finished with an early ice bath, after cracking on the climb. Pre-race favourite Caleb Ewan (OGE) never looked in the race. Known hard cases Simon Clarke (Cannondale), Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal) and Rohan Dennis (BMC) battled hard but came up short.

    Why such carnage? A combination of heat, wind and relentless pace from the race leader. The mutterings about moving the national championships away from Buninyong seem to grow louder every year, but there’s no denying that the circuit provides a true test. You might even argue it’s too tough, given the quality of the riders it broke today.

    The destruction started early, with a group of 20 riders attacking almost immediately and quickly building a lead of around nine minutes.

    Bobridge and Bernard Sulzberger (Drapac) splintered this group with an attack on the Mount Buninyong climb (where else) with more than half of the distance still to ride. For a few laps the pair worked together before Sulzberger cracked and Bobridge surged onwards with more than half the race distance still to cover.

    By Lap 10, with Bobridge powering around the circuit lapping some of his fastest times of the day, the remnants of the break smeared across the road, and OGE calling its riders together to organise a chase the crowd began to calculate the odds, and they looked pretty slim.

    As the lap countdown progressed, his lead remained steady but the chasing group got smaller and smaller. We began to sense we were seeing something special.

    By the time Bobridge crossed the finish line with his arms aloft, it was clear that on his day he is still a very special rider indeed.

    Tim Renowden
    Tim Renowden

    Tim Renowden has been following professional cycling closely since Indurain won his first Tour. An ex-runner, now a club grade bike racer, Tim tweets about sport at @megabicicleta.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • January 11th 2016 @ 12:15pm
      Barry said | January 11th 2016 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

      An absolutely stunning feat of athleticism, the man was a machine.

      But he proved that Buninyong wasn’t unbeatable, you just had to apply yourself for the whole race.

      Sure, letting a guy get ahead is ok when you’re conserving your energy, but in that heat, your energy is being sapped anyway, so you should stay a bit closer.

      They underestimated Bobridge and it cost them. And all he could talk about at the finish was his disappointment with his earlier race. Must have been really spurring him on!

      • January 11th 2016 @ 1:11pm
        bill said | January 11th 2016 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

        exactly – you don’t let a contender get that big a break – they underestimated Bobridge and he made them pay.

    • January 11th 2016 @ 1:58pm
      Jeff said | January 11th 2016 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

      Kudos to Jack , he stood alone and deserved the win.Given that Jack can be inconsistent, the nature of the day and OGE desire to win from a reduced bunch sprint, it is no surprise that they thought until too late that the race would come to them. It was special win.

    • January 11th 2016 @ 2:17pm
      Steve said | January 11th 2016 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

      “hardened World Tour professionals alike had their arses handed back to them” LOL Classic!!

      I don’t know how many of the Europe based pro’s can expect to be at peak form in January given riders like Porte will be backing themselves to be GC contenders come July – having said that it was a total dominating display of true grit!

      • Columnist

        January 11th 2016 @ 8:23pm
        Tim Renowden said | January 11th 2016 @ 8:23pm | ! Report

        True – Adam Hansen (for example) certainly looked like he’s still a fair way off Grand Tour shape, if you know what I mean – but with TDU coming up the top Aussie guys are usually in pretty good shape at Nationals. Not absolute peak, but they do come to Buninyong to win.

        Reading some quotes from other riders today it seems pretty unanimous that they thought Bobridge would crack himself, but he just kept going. In that heat, you can see why people thought he’d blow up, because riders were suffering right from the early laps. It was just a magnificent ride to watch.

    • January 12th 2016 @ 10:45pm
      anopinion said | January 12th 2016 @ 10:45pm | ! Report

      Drapac were a huge disappointment. At least OGE tried to pull it back. Once Bernie cracked they should have had a go.

    • Roar Rookie

      January 15th 2016 @ 9:13am
      Justin Curran said | January 15th 2016 @ 9:13am | ! Report

      This guy seems capable of pulling off these incredible rides yet has failed to make a huge impact on the World tour. Any thoughts Tim?

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