One year ago Jack Bobridge was making his attempt on the UCI World Hour Record. The 26-year-old fell short in what he referred to as 'the closest I'll ever be to death without dying'. Twelve months on, Bobridge returns to Victoria for what should be a far less painful experience at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, where he will line-up with the Trek-Segafredo team.
Bobridge had a dream start to his Trek-Segafredo career, soloing 90km to his second Australian national road title earlier this month, before heading to the Tour Down Under where he finished 33rd after helping Giacomo Nizzolo in the sprints. He will have the opportunity to pursue personal ambitions at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and at next week's Jayco Herald Sun Tour, a race he's ridden just once before, finishing second overall.
"Cadel's race is a race that I think can suit me. It’s a pretty tough, pretty hard race," Bobridge told Cyclingnews. "I didn’t get to do it last year, or the Sun Tour, but I definitely think the course on paper should suit me. Obviously we are going to be a strong team but I am not sure yet what the ambitions are or who the protected rider will be, but for sure, at Cadel’s race I’d like to be up there and having a go.
"I’ve heard whispers from a few people this year that the Sun Tour course is pretty difficult, and I’ve seen there are several meters of climbing each day so hopefully that plays into my hands and I can have a good week there."
"I’ve only done the Sun Tour once and that was in the national jersey, obviously it was a different time of the year, it was the end of the season so the levels of everyone are a bit different after a season of racing."
Undecided on what his track programme will be before the Rio Olympic Games in August, where Bobridge is aiming for nothing less than the team pursuit gold medal, he is eyeing a return to the Giro d'Italia where he'll be a key rider in Nizzolo's sprint train.
"We obviously started together here this week. At the Giro we’ll have nine guys so we’ll have a lot more help in the finish whereas here we were a little bit limited."
"Hopefully we can get that mastered by them. I think Nizzolo is a little bit frustrated with all the second places he's getting so it's only that small little bit and with those extra guys I think we can get it together and definitely this team on paper has the horsepower to do so. I hope we can get it across the line and start getting him on the top step."
Bobridge has started the Giro on three previous occasions but is yet to finish a Grand Tour. Asked whether arriving in Torino after three weeks would be his aim, Bobridge replied: "This year, after the years of racing and getting experience the plan would definitely be to get to the finish. At the same time, be smart about it.
"In that last week if you are digging trenches for yourself and digging holes there is no point in continually doing the last stages if it will destroy you but I think now as I am older, stronger, smarter and wiser that I can get through the Giro in good condition and help the team throughout the whole three weeks."
In a shortened road season due to his track ambitions, Bobridge's Giro preparation will see him ride the Tour de Romandie for a fifth time in his career.
Olympic and Worlds ambition
Early-season Australian racing, Romandie and the Giro are hors d'oeuvres for Bobridge in 2016, as he devotes himself to ensuring Australia claims its first Olympic team pursuit gold medal since Athens in 2004. Bobridge has been to the Olympics twice before, finishing outside the medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and claiming silver at the 2012 London Olympics.
"I guess Beijing and London, you get a fourth and second so it always keeps you that little bit hungry.
"Gold is what we want, anything less would be an upset for sure. It only comes along every four years. I think at this point in time we are on track, we are on schedule to do what we want to do. We can only worry about what we are doing, we can’t worry about what other countries are doing. There are other countries putting their hands up every World Cup and at Worlds."
After Rio, Bobridge will return to the road with Trek-Segafredo, his focus on then earning selection for the Doha Worlds in the time trial. An event he won while racing at U23 level in 2009 but has only ridden once in the elite ranks, finishing fifth in 2011.
"My ambition at the start of the year was to target the Worlds time trial. Obviously the nationals didn’t go to plan in the time trial, there is Romandie and the Giro to still put your hand up for the time trial," he said.
"I think the guys who do the time trial at the Olympics will be ready, but I don’t know if they will be capable of going to Worlds if they have peaked for the Olympics."
"This is probably going to have to be one of my biggest seasons," he said. "In terms of results too. Obviously I only have one year with Trek and it does make it hard doing the track as it limits my road racing and my capabilities of showing that to get another contract.
"I only have a short, small window to get re-signed but I guess winning the road nationals was one tick of the box but I have to keep in mind that it is January and still early in the season so I have to be consistent through Romandie and the Giro, and then obviously in the races that I do i after the Games, I need be consistent and show something there and hopefully I can tick another box for Luca to give me a chance next year."