RISOUL, France (VN) — Jack Bobridge (Trek – Segafredo) would be happy to surrender his claim to one of the long standing but now unofficial honors of the Giro d’Italia before the race finishes on Sunday.
That honor is being the “winner” of the Giro’s “maglia nera” (black jersey) as the last finisher on general classification, like the “lanterne rouge” (red lantern) in the Tour de France.
The maglia nera is no longer presented as it once was from 1946 to 1951 — the last winner was Italian Giovanni Pinarello, who founded the famous Pinarello bicycle manufacturer based in Treviso. But the term it is still used in unofficial reference to the last placed rider. And after Saturday’s 134km 20th and penultimate stage from Guillestre to Sant’Anna Di Vinadio, Bobridge was that rider.
The 26-year-old Australian, who has been last overall since stage 16, finished 145th in the stage at 45 minutes six seconds to stage winner Rein Taaramae (Katusha). He is now in 157th overall at five hours, eight minutes, and 51 seconds behind new race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
Unsurprisingly, Bobridge said there was no strategy behind his position. Nor will there be.
“It doesn’t bother me,” said Bobridge who began the Giro low on road kilometers due to training commitments with the Australian track team pursuit squad for the Rio Olympics.
“It’s not a spot that I planned to be in, but if I can finish the tour knowing I have done my job, and did what I had to do … if that is the place I finish in then that’s the place I guess.
“Some guys chase or follow it, but that’s not what I am after. I just want to make sure I leave here knowing I’ve done my best for the team. If that’s the place I fall in then that’s the place.”
So forget any shenanigans from Bobridge to try to “defend” last place in Sunday’s Giro finale.
“No … no,” said Bobridge laughing. “If someone wants it they can take it, that’s for sure.”
Bobridge’s goal now that finishing the Giro is likely is to help his sprinter Italian Giacomo Nizzolo in Sunday’s 21st stage, 163km from Cuneo to Torino. Nizzolo has the “maglia rossa” (red points jersey) and is yet to win his first Giro stage after finishing second nine times.
“Nizzolo is still carrying the red jersey, so we will try to keep that … and get him for a stage win on the last day,” said Bobridge. “He has shown that he is consistent. I strongly believe he is the strongest guy left in the bunch for the last day. Hopefully it will all come together.”
For Bobridge, his motivation to survive the Alps was the chance to “be there on Sunday for [Nizzolo] … to control the break or bring it back.
“We are down to six guys. It will be crucial.”
However, while he is placed last and feeling the inevitable fatigue of having raced all but the the last day of the Giro, Bobridge is faring up well, considering started it with “track legs.”
“At this stage of the race it’s … for everyone, it’s just survival; but compared to the first few days after coming out of the track camp it has got better and better. Obviously everyone is tired and it creeps up on you in the third week. The road legs have come round, but the body is tired. If I was to recover from this and have to race another race another tour after this there would be no problem. But I will be going back on the track [training for Rio].”
“I wouldn’t say [I am] strong,” he said, laughing. “In the last week, for us guys that aren’t riding higher up it has been survival mode the whole time. Every day is different. Some are bad, some are good. It’s [all been] about recovery — eating, sleeping and all the little things like massage.”
The closest Bobridge came to a possible exit was on the lightning fast 132km 16th stage to Andolo when he fell from second last to last overall after finishing 128th on the stage 17:57 back — just inside the time limit of about 18 minutes.
“It was definitely a hard stage for me,” Bobridge said. “If you know its going to be a hard stage you can mentally prepare for it. We knew that was always going to be a hard stage on paper. We just scraped through. At the end of the day that’s all you have to do. You are not one hundred per cent sure until the first guy crosses the finish line. But you can work it out.”
As for Bobridge’s ambitions for the year to come – the most important is the Olympic Games team pursuit in which he aims to be on the other side of the result sheet – in first.
The Australians will be one of the favorites for the gold medal at the Rio Games and Bobridge said racing the Giro should have a major impact on his final preparation.
Asked if his purpose of racing the Giro was to fulfill his road commitments with Trek-Segafredo, or to build a base of hard racing kilometers before he hones his track form, Bobridge said: “It is for both. Definitely it is for the commitment [to Trek-Segerafredo]. But it is also massive bonus for Rio that’s for sure … it’s a big building block and strength base.”