In one of the greatest performances in Australian road race championship history South Australian Jack Bobridge claimed a second Australian road race title in bold fashion leading the race from start to finish at the 2016 MARS Cycling Australia Road National Championships.
Part of a strong 21-rider break that formed on the opening lap Bobridge won the hearts of the Buninyong faithful with an attack that was reminiscent of the panache shown by the great Eddy Merckx.
“That was my greatest ever ride,” said a satisfied Bobridge. “I don’t think it’s sunk in yet really but to be honest I think 90km or 100km solo is next level I guess,” said Bobridge. In saying that this is the kind of course that when you do have that nine minute advantage those guys are still climbing and you’re descending.”
The men’s race pace was on from the start with a strong 21-rider group forming on the opening lap consisting of key contenders such as Jack Bobridge (SA), Tim Roe (SA), Michael Hepburn (QLD), and Bernie Sulzberger (TAS).
In what would prove to be one of the decisive moves of the race Bobridge and Bernard Sulzberger attacked from the 21-rider break and with the duo working together they had quickly built a lead of 40 seconds, with the peloton now over eight minutes behind. As what remained of the break sensed the danger in the move of the experienced Bobridge and Bernard Sulzberger, riders set off in an attempt to bridge.
Unhappy with the pace, Bobridge made the decisive move of the race and dropped Sulzberger on the climb on the 10th lap, creating a one-minute advantage by the end of the lap.
A combination of the heat and the pressure being applied by Bobridge pushed the gap to 10 minutes with the riders that remained warned they would be pulled from the race if the gap continued to grow.
With the danger evident and Bobridge showing no signs of slowing, Orica-GreenEDGE put seven riders on the front in an attempt to keep their hope of a fourth national title alive.
Despite the chasing by Orica-GreenEDGE, Bobridge’s advantage barely moved, holding at seven minutes 20 seconds with four laps remaining.
As numbers in the peloton began to dwindle and riders had no team support left they set off on their own with time trial champion Rohan Dennis (SA) and former time trial and criterium champion Cameron Meyer (WA) the major animators.
Meyer and Dennis, who like Bobridge are former world champions on the track, joined forces bringing the gap down to six minutes and 25 seconds as they started the final two laps as a heavily reduced nine-rider peloton was still over eight minutes behind.
It was one of the toughest races Meyer has ever experienced. “That was one of the most torturous national titles ever, as well as it being in that sort of heat. It was a strange race, up and down.
“Richie Porte was lighting it up for a lap then Drapac was lighting it up, then it would stop and there would be some machine out the front who wouldn’t bring it back. I’m happy to be on the podium.”
“As soon as I heard the situation of that big group, I’m thinking ‘geez, they’re giving him a bit too much gap’. You let Jack Bobridge go out like that and It’s going to be a hard chase.”
Meyer was confident he could reel Bobridge in, but it wasn’t to be. “I was thinking that surely he’s going to blow at one point! Sometime his legs are going to give up, but I think it was only in the last lap. All our legs were gone as well. He thoroughly deserved it and I’m happy to be on the podium.”
“I’ve been fourth here twice and had a fifth (place). I was part of Jack’s win, I was part of my brothers win, Luke Durbridge’s win, Simon Gerrans win and I just wanted to get on the podium.”
“For me to get on the podium, it just shows all of the hard work I’ve done. I can go into the next races confident and have another crack.”
Heading in to the final lap the win for Jack Bobridge had well and truly been sealed with a four minute 40 second advantage on Meyer with a surging Pat Lane (VIC) and Dennis a further minute behind.
“Obviously Rohan was in fantastic condition after what he did to us the other day. I was actually going to follow either
“When I saw that big group go at the start, 20 guys that had a lot of teams represented, I put myself there and I guess I got away with Bernie [Sulzberger] and he was umming and ahhing whether to stay there or not. At that point in time if I was to go back I’ve spent too much energy already so I’m not going to win the bike race anyway.”
Meyer crossed the line two minutes and 52 seconds behind to claim silver, with Lane a minute further back for bronze.
It was a big day for Pat Lane who conquered World Tour riders to claim bronze. “I’m absolutely stoked. The team put a fair bit of faith in me, and confidence. I’m really happy I could get a podium result for them.”
“I’ve got a great support base and I think that rubs off. I’ve improved a lot since last year and come back to a good level.
”Everyone is getting good results and you see that and you really believe that with the support we’ve got, you can do it yourself. It’s a really good atmosphere within the team.”
Nathan Haas (ACT) claimed the sprint for fourth over one minute behind Lane in a race that saw only 15 of the 127 started complete the gruelling course.
Article and image courtesy of Cycling Australia.