Bobridge (SA) after setting his blistering time in the men's individual pursuit qualifiers
view thumbnail gallery
Fastest man since 'the Superman' aims to go lower
It's been 14 years since Chris Boardman rode that famous world championship individual pursuit in Manchester; his 4:11.114 considered unsurpassable, not least of all due to the 'Superman' position adopted to achieve the time.
Yesterday Jack Bobridge, the 20-year-old current U23 road time trial world champion with fire in his belly and the world at his feet, gave us the first real indication that Boardman's time may well be toppled in the future.
Bobridge's time of 4:14.127 may be almost three seconds slower than Boardman's time, but the abolition of the 'Superman' position means that it's the fastest in the world according to UCI regulations.
"Boardman's record was achieved using the Superman position - the current fastest time is mine," Bobridge told Cyclingnews. "To know that I've ridden the fastest time in the regulatory position... you can't do much better but hopefully I can improve on it."
What's most encouraging however, is Bobridge's attitude to further lowering the mark - he knows there are improvements to be made as it's early in the year and more than a month outside the UCI Track World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark.
"I believe that at the moment I'm not 100 percent; if someone asks me I would seriously say I'm at 90 percent," he explained. His next comments are ironic given that essentially it's the riding style dubbed 'the Superman position' that separates himself from the fastest individual pursuit time ever.
"I think that extra 10 is when you're feeling like Superman and I can say that because I've felt my body at that level before. Every year you step up and you find a new 'Superman' in yourself. I really think that by the time worlds come I'll have that extra 10 percent," he explained.
Bobridge and the current crop of Australian track-and-road stars are the poster boys for the clean generation of riders born outside the culture of doping and bred on the message - through their peers and national institutes - that it's not OK to resort to performance-enhancing substances.
A consequence of this fact is that these young men need to know the workings of their bodies completely, something Bobridge explained he has further developed during his rise up the ranks. It's also a sign of his growing maturity as a rider.
"Missing out on Melbourne World Cup and the time trial at road nationals was a decision based on knowing that my body isn't ready for that kind of load," he said. "I could have thrashed myself and maybe got on the podium but it definitely kept me fresh and the approach to worlds this year is going to be just right.
"I love to use the road and the track as complementary preparation - they're both exciting. I've missed events at the start of this season, on the track and the road, just to get my head around things and take a different approach to worlds this year which should be of benefit to me when they come around," he added.
As the London Olympics edge closer, more comparisons are being made to the all-conquering Australian team pursuit squad that won the gold medal in that event at the Athens Games. Brad McGee, Brett Lancaster, Graeme Brown, Luke Roberts and Peter Dawson formed part of the 'golden generation' of track-turned-road riders that the likes of Bobridge, the Meyer brothers, Rohan Dennis and Luke Durbridge use as inspiration for success in the future.
After several lean years for the Australian team, during which time Great Britain's squad has become the premier pursuiting nation, it seems as though there's cause for optimism, revealed in the glut of fast times posted by young Aussies at this year's national titles. In the immediate future it also bodes well for this year's world titles in Denmark.
"You look at the Pommies before Beijing; every one of the guys who stepped on the track for the team pursuit could ride sub 4:20. I've been saying that to all the guys in the team and it showed today - we've four, five, nearly six guys who are riding those sorts of times," said Bobridge.
"Everyone's got a bit to improve on in their position, even myself. The two-and-a-half years before London is a long time and I'm really looking forward to seeing what we can do; even in another seven weeks in Copenhagen. It'll be time to step up again compared to last year.
"My best before today was a 4:17.4 but now I've come out and done 4:14.4. And there's Rohan Dennis, who had the best time before that plus Travis Meyer, who rode a sub 4:20. It's awesome to see and we've still got seven weeks until the worlds," he added.
As for his own development, Bobridge can see his future panning out similarly to two great pursuiters who have come before him - Bradley Wiggins and Bradley McGee. He believes a pro road career can keep his velodrome ambitions on track. "Hopefully by London, thanks to my contract with Garmin-Transitions on the road, I can get those bigger tours in my legs and get stronger. I'm riding bigger gears now but I don't think I'm in my proper individual pursuit gear that most guys ride," he explained.
"No matter what, riding tours in the pro peloton you're doing them in the big ring and you get stronger. I know for a fact that guys like Wiggins and McGee [when he was riding] would ride bigger chainrings than I do at the moment.
:At the end of the day I've produced slightly quicker times so I'm looking forward to getting stronger and being able to ride a bigger gear. It doesn't always mean you'll go faster but you never know until you give it a crack."
Back to top
Jack Bobridge's individual pursuit - a short perspective
Bradley Wiggins, Athens (gold medal): 4:16.304
Bradley Wiggins, Beijing (gold medal): 4:16.977
Geraint Thomas, Manchester (World Cup, October '09): 4:15.015
Jack Bobridge, Adelaide (Australian nationals): 4:14.427
Chris Boardman, Manchester (World Championships '96): 4:11.114