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It was arguably the most concise victory in the history of the elite men’s Australian national road race championships. In his second week as a Trek-Segafredo rider, South Australian Jack Bobridge soloed for nearly 90 kilometers to take the win Sunday nearly three minutes over his closest rival.
Just 15 out of the 127 starters completed the grueling 18-lap, 183.6km race under scorching temperatures soaring above 91F (33C) in Buninyong, Victoria, on Sunday.
Most noticeably absent at the finish was pre-race favorite Richie Porte, who failed to defend his national time trial title against new BMC Racing teammate Rohan Dennis on Thursday. The 30-year-old Tasmanian had played down his form prior to the race as he is admittedly focused on general classification contention at the Tour de France in July with BMC co-leader Tejay van Garderen.
Porte abandoned the race on the 12th lap.
.@richie_porte has abandoned the road race on lap 12. “It would be better to finish the race but I still think I did some good efforts”(1/2)
— BMC Racing Team (@BMCProTeam) January 10, 2016
It is the second title for the 26-year-old Bobridge, who won in 2011 in similar fashion with a 30km solo break to the finish.
“That was my greatest ever ride,” said a Bobridge, who spent last year riding for Australian Continental team Budget-Forklifts to focus his 2016 Olympic team pursuit ambitions. “I don’t think it’s sunk in yet really but to be honest I think 80km solo is next level I guess.
“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 world record holder in the 4km individual pursuit, who failed in his attempt at the Hour Record last January just one week before Dennis smashed it in Switzerland, looked strong from the start, joining a 21-rider break on the opening lap.
Bobridge and Drapac’s Bernard Sulzberger split from the group after an attack on lap seven and extended a lead of more than 10 minutes over the field. Three laps later Bobridge dropped the 32-year-old Tasmanian before eventually cruising to the finish ahead of Dimension Data’s Cameron Meyer in second, 2:52 back, and Patrick Lane of Avanti-IsoWhey Sports in third, 3:53 behind the winner.
Meyer summed up the performance of his former Orica-GreenEdge teammate Bobridge by saying: “You had some machine out the front who wouldn’t let us bring him back.”
Entering the race, the odds were stacked against Bobridge, who was clearly outmanned with Orica-GreenEdge possessing a huge numbers advantage.
“They let the race go by letting that big group go early and not having one of their selected guys in there,” Bobridge said of Orica-GreenEdge’s race strategy and failed chase attempt.
“Their tactics today — I don’t think they rode the smartest race they’ve ever ridden.”
In elite women’s action, Orica-AIS rider Amanda Spratt also claimed her second Australian road title ahead of 2010 champion Ruth Corset (Rush) and Orica’s Rachel Neylan in a thrilling end to a 102km race.
Spratt, who won her first national championship in 2012, showed her speed and tactics in the closing stages of the race, jumping early and distancing Corset in the final few hundred meters to claim a second green and gold jersey.
“The first one was probably a little bit more unexpected, this time I came in knowing that my form was really good,” Spratt said.
“Having Sarah Roy out there in that early break was great for us,” she said. “It was a great situation and it meant we could not panic, sit in there and relax and certainly had the other teams wondering what we were going to do. Once we started making those moves it really meant business.
“Getting across to Sarah was great, she was cramping, she was absolutely done but she just said, ‘What can I do, What do I do?’
“She just gave me every last bit of energy she had and I knew that it was up to me to finish it off.”
In time trial action on Thursday, Rohan Dennis topped defending champion and new BMC Racing teammate Richie Porte, as well as Avanti-IsoWhey Sports’ Sean Lake, to claim the Australian time trial title. Katrin Garfoot of Orica-AIS downed fellow Queenslander and defending four-time champion Shara Gillow (Rabobank-Liv) on the women’s side.
Christie, Buchanan claim men’s and women’s New Zealand road titles
Although he nearly walked away from the sport two months ago after not being re-signed with Avanti, Jason Christie (Kenyan Riders Downunder) rallied to win the 180km elite men’s Big Save New Zealand Road Cycling National Championships in Napier on Sunday.
“To be honest, I was actually going to quit the sport, which makes the win even more special,” the 25-year-old told VeloNews.
But Christie used his frustration as motivation, and the 2011 national time trial champion said he was not surprised by his result on the road this weekend.
“I really wanted to actually win the race,” said Christie, who finished seventh behind winner and former Avanti teammate Patrick Bevin (Cannondale) in the time trial on Friday. “I trained hard for this.”
Dion Smith of ONE Pro Cycling and Robin Reid finished behind Christie at 16 and 17 seconds back to claim second and third, respectively.
On Saturday, Waikato’s Rushlee Buchanan (UnitedHealthcare), who won the time trial title on Thursday on top of the New Zealand criterium title she won last month, completed the triple by winning the 117km elite women’s road race.
Georgia Williams (BePink LaClassica) nabbed second and Jo Kiesanowski (Team TIBCO) took third, both one second behind Buchanan.
Aaron S. Lee is a cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport and a guest contributor to VeloNews.