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by Matt de Neef
January 10, 2016
Photography by Matt de Neef
BUNINYONG, Australia (CT) – Jack Bobridge (Trek-Segafredo) has won his second Australian road race title, soloing to a remarkable long-range victory on the final day of the 2016 Australian Road National Championships.
Cameron Meyer (Dimension Data) finished second, nearly three minutes behind Bobridge, while Pat Lane (Avanti IsoWhey) completed the podium, a further minute behind.
Bobridge had been part of a 20-rider escape group that got clear on the very first lap of the 18-lap, 183.6km race. Other than Bobridge, the break also contained the likes of Michael Hepburn and Mitch Docker (Orica-GreenEdge), Bernie Sulzberger and Tim Roe (Drapac), and Avanti IsoWhey’s Sam Crome – a threatening bunch.
Getting in the early move hadn’t been part of Bobridge’s plan.
“I was actually going to follow either [Simon] Gerrans of Caleb [Ewan],” Bobridge explained. “In the back of my mind I thought Richie [Porte] and Rohan [Dennis] would be a bit too strong for me to try and go with them at the finish but when I saw that big group go at the start … 20 guys — it had a lot of teams represented. I put myself there.”
That group of 20 built an advantage that grew to nearly eight minutes by the sixth lap while three riders found themselves in no-man’s land, trying in vain to get across from the peloton to the break.
On lap 6 Bobridge and Bernie Sulzberger attacked from the lead group, starting lap 7 with 20 seconds over the rest of breakaway and eight minutes over the peloton. This move signalled the beginning of the end for the rest of the day’s early break, the group splintering into many pieces.
With half the race still to be completed, Bobridge left Sulzberger behind, embarking on a bold solo move roughly 90km from the finish.
“[Sulzberger] was humming and ha-ing whether to stay [out front] or not,” Bobridge said. “At that point in time, if I was to go back, I’d spent too much energy already so [I wasn’t] going to win the bike race anyway. So I got myself into a good rhythm.”
Bobridge admitted after the race that he didn’t expect the move to stick.
“I honestly didn’t think, going that far from home, that I’d be able to hold on on this course,” Bobridge said. This course is brutal. But I guess the time gaps … stayed the same and a few times they started to go out a bit.”
Some nine minutes behind Bobridge, and with eight laps still to go, the remnants of the ever-thinning, Orica-GreenEdge-led peloton were starting to increase the tempo. And while those efforts saw many dropped from the peloton — including pre-race favourites Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) and Richie Porte (BMC) — they were unable to reduce Bobridge’s advantage which remained at more than eight minutes.
With five laps and 51km remaining, just 26 riders were left in the peloton, some 8:30 behind Bobridge. Orica-GreenEdge led the charge with four riders, the last in line being two-time national champion Simon Gerrans. It was around this time that Bobridge started to believe he might have a shot at adding to the national title he won in 2011.
“Four or five laps from home I started to think to myself ‘I can probably do this if I keep riding smart,'” he said. “Every time up the climb I really watched my powermeter and I knew what I could do. It was a little tactical game for me in terms of really watching that powermeter and really watching the effort right to the finish line.”
On lap 15 of 18, with Bobridge still more than eight minutes clear and looking almost certain to win, there was a flurry of attacks from what remained of the peloton. Rohan Dennis (BMC), Simon Gerrans and Cameron Meyer all tried to get away in separate moves, but in the end it was Dennis and Meyer that joined forces in the second half of that 15th lap.
Meyer would go on to drop Dennis on the 17th time up Mt. Buninyong while behind them, Pat Lane had departed the peloton, passing Dennis and putting himself into third on the road.
But while Bobridge faded significantly in the last two laps, he was never in danger of being caught. His arms outstretched, he crossed the finish line in Buninyong 2:52 ahead of Cam Meyer while Pat Lane came in a further 1:01 behind Meyer. Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) led through the eight-rider “peloton” some 4:56 behind Bobridge. The warm temperatures and tough course had taken their toll on the riders — just 15 of the 127 starters went on to finish the race.
Second-placed Cameron Meyer paid tribute to Bobridge’s effort before adding that he was delighted to be on the podium after years of riding for teammates.
“I’ve been fourth here twice and a fifth and I was part of Jack’s win, part of my brother’s win, Luke Durbridge’s win, Simon Gerrans’ win,” Meyer said. “I was like geez I just want to get on the podium!”
For Bobridge, the win was a case of “redemption” after finishing 10th in Thursday’s individual time trial – a below-par result for the man who finished third in the corresponding event last year.
“To be honest I trained … probably more than I ever have for the time trial on Thursday and it didn’t go my way,” Bobridge said. “I just had one of them [sic.] days when the body just didn’t want to work. Everyone has them days.
“At the end of the day, to win the road race is a bit … better than the time trial because I get to wear the jersey more often.”
Bobridge won’t have to wait long before wearing that jersey – he’ll line up at next week’s Santos Tour Down Under as national champion and one of the riders to watch. And after winning the opening stage and the KOM jersey in last year’s race, he’s keen for another good showing in 2016.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to have a go at Down Under next week,” Bobridge said. “Now I’ve shown that I’ve got the form to do it I’ll step up and see what I can do.”