South Australia’s Jack Bobridge has achieved a lifetime ambition in winning the gold medal in the U23 time trial at the UCI Road Cycling World Championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland.
The 20 year old Jayco-AIS rider posted a time of 40min44.79sec for the 33.2km distance to finish a clear 18.73sec ahead of second placed Nelson Oliviera of Portugal with Germany’s pre-race favourite Patrick Gretsch third at 27.66sec.
Bobridge was the ninth last rider to start and was fastest at every check point arriving at the finish line to take his place in the ‘hot seat’ for a nervous ten minute wait as one by one his rivals failed to match his time.
When the last rider crossed the line and Bobridge emotion overwhelmed him and he stood with his arms raised, sobbing with joy when he realised he was the new World Champion.
“I’ve really nailed it today and to pull it off is unreal,” said Bobridge. ” I can’t explain it, it’s awesome.”
Bobridge is the first Australian to claim the U23 time trial crown and it caps off a remarkable season for the youngster. He won both the U23 time trial and U23 road race crowns at the Australian Championships and notched up another six wins on the road including stages in the Tour of Japan and the Thuringen Tour in Germany. He also claimed two silver medals (individual pursuit and team pursuit) at the Track World Championships in March.
Next year Bobridge will ride in the ProTour ranks with Garmin-Slipstream. Bobridge came into the Championships with the weight of expectation on his shoulders and admits there were a few people who doubted if he could do the job today after his break from cycling in July.
“I think tonight will hit me a bit harder but at the moment it’s a feeling of disbelief but at the same time pretty emotional because I had a few people who didn’t know whether I had had too much time off or put on too much weight during my break,” said Bobridge. “But I knew what I had to do and I’ve done it and to come out with the world stripes it shows if I put my head down I can show the world what I can do.
“I really needed the break (in July) because I’d been going since the Olympics,” he said. “I didn’t even watch the Tour de France while I was off – just completely no bikes in my head.”
But if people thought Bobridge had misjudged his run they’ve been proved wrong.
“I’ve been to some big events already as a young guy – Olympics and that – and have learned to deal with big pressure and expectations over the yers and I know when to put my head down and when I need a break,” he explained. “I’ve trained with Ian McKenzie (Australian track endurance coach) and there’s been times when Ian has really pushed me to the absolute limit – where sometimes you want to give it up but it’s made me stronger and stronger and he’s taught me to deal with great pressure and bring myself up to an event.
“I’ve put all that experience to work over the past two months and it’s brought me a sensational win.”
Bobridge also paid credit to Australia’s U23 road coach, Brian Stephens, who was driving in the team car behind Bobridge during his ride screaming through a loudhailer to urge him on. This is the last year Stephens will steer the fortunes of Australia’s young road talent in Europe. He will return to Australia to work with the sport from 2010.
“I didn’t realise it was Brian’s last year till a couple of days ago and you know in the back of my head I wanted to top off a win for ‘Brino’,” said Bobridge. “The amount of effort that ‘Brino’ has put in for so many years and to pull off a win for him in his last year he’s pretty wrapped.
“He’s absolutely sensational and he knows everything – he’s been around for that many years and the suport he’s given me over the last two months – he never doubted me once.”
Two other Australians contested today’s event with West Australian Travis Meyer finished 17th at 1min41.92sec and Oceania Champion John (Jack) Anderson 41st, 2min59.29sec off the pace of Bobridge.
Bobridge won’t have much time to celebrate as he needs to prepare for Saturday’s U23 road race and the Australian team have their eyes on another podium finish.
“If we can get another result it would be great and we have the squad to do it,” said Bobridge. “Leigh Howard’s been winning everything and we have some other awesome riders who could do the same thing.
“We’ll look after each other 100 percent and see what we can do on Saturday.”