Bobridge’s coach, Tim Decker, was with him for every one of the 51.3km and in his own way looked weary having gone through the process. Throughout the hour, Decker was dancing along his black markers taped near the edge of the duckboard that would indicate where his charge was in relation to the various schedules that had been mapped out prior to the attempt. At the completion of the 60 minutes, Bobridge fell just 552 metres short of the benchmark set by Mathias Brändle. The 51.3km was good enough to set a new Australian record, bettering Brad McGee’s 50.052km set back in 1997.
“I’m feeling gutted for Jack in the fact that he didn’t quite get there,” reflected Decker. “Between us, we’d built it up that there was the possibility that he could break that record and try and set that high target that would make it really hard [for others to follow].
“I’ve got another level of respect for him after seeing him at the finish. He gave all he could and that’s all you can ask from any of your athletes.”
Bobridge’s form heading into the attempt was well-illustrated at last week’s Tour Down Under where he rode into the ochre jersey on the opening stage. It was good preparation but the timing of Saturday night’s attempt on the record required a fine balance. By holding the attempt during a session of the Cycling Australia Track National Championships, hype was built as part of an existing event. For curious onlookers that wouldn’t regularly find themselves at a track meet, there was hope that some of the excitement would carry over and new fans could be won over.
“You need to think about how you want to present yourself to the public and also give the public the best opportunity to see it as well,” said Decker. Would an additional week of preparation following the Tour Down Under to build up leg speed make a difference?
“I wouldn’t look back on any of it,” said Decker. “He [Bobridge] said himself that he’d recovered very well. I don’t think there was ever an issue, I think it’s just how brutal the hour record is.
“Everybody should still be very happy about what’s happened tonight because it’s lifted the profile of Australian track cycling for a record to be in Australia.”
With the thought of going anywhere near a bike on Sunday abhorrent, Bobridge suggested that the only person in the vicinity who would attempt to break the hour record would be Decker. In the coach’s mind, it’s a sentiment that will pass.
“There’s no doubt that we were maybe a little bit over-confident or we overestimated the hour record a touch,” Decker was frank. “Our belief that we could get to the 52.5 – 53km mark, it didn’t come off tonight. It doesn’t mean that it’s not going to come off in his lifetime. If he wishes to have another attempt at some stage we’ll back him and I’m sure he’ll be better in another attempt.”
At the 20 minute mark, Bobridge told reporters that was when he knew “you’re definitely going to hell.” He’d started strongly, too-strongly perhaps and was on course for a mark of around 54km after the first 10 minutes. On the eve of the attempt, a last-minute decision was made to move up to a 106 inch gear, up two inches from what had been planned. Bobridge had felt a “sweet spot” and wanted to run with it. Decker wasn’t looking for a scapegoat by any means, but Bobridge’s pacing was on par with Brändle’s at around the 12km mark, and then continued to fall. Decker always remained hopeful of a surge in the final 15 minutes.
“You do go through a lot of emotions,” Decker said. “He was up for so long and then there was that period where he just started dipping out with +18-second laps and I thought maybe he’s just holding back a little bit…”
McGee tells a cautionary tale of the impact an attempt at the feat can have, with the remainder of the 1997 season a write-off such was the strain on his body. Decker however, believes that Bobridge will feel the benefits of the effort all the way to the Olympic Games in Rio next year, lifting the 25-year-old to “another level”.