Australian looks to make conversion from track to stage racing
After devoting much of his opening three years as a professional to some unfinished business on the track, Jack Bobridge is finally set to focus completely on matters on the road as he begins life at Blanco Pro Cycling.
By his own estimation, Bobridge raced more on the road as an amateur than he did in the past three seasons at Garmin and Orica-GreenEdge, as he threw his lot in with the Australian team pursuit squad’s Olympic challenge. Although he claimed the individual pursuit world record along the way for his troubles, he met with disappointment in London, when the Australian quartet had to settle for silver behind Britain.
“I sacrificed a lot on the road but my big goal after Beijing [where the Australians finished 4th in the team pursuit] was to go all the way through to London and do it, so I don’t regret anything about it, even if it was disappointing not to win gold,” Bobridge told Cyclingnews.
With the individual pursuit sadly no longer part of the Olympic programme – a particular pity, Bobridge notes, because “everyone likes it and everyone watching can understand what’s going on” – he has called time on a track career that saw him claim every garland outside of Olympic gold.
“I’ve done everything possible on the track now, apart from the team pursuit world record and Olympic gold obviously,” he said. “But the next Olympics are another four years away and at this stage, I can’t sacrifice any more road to stick with the track.”
2013 is a year of changes, then, for the 23-year-old, starting with a new team. Bobridge joined the GreenEdge set-up for its inaugural season, attracted by the team’s close links to the Australian federation and the opportunity to think only of preparing for the Olympics without being pulled in the opposite direction by a resistant employer on the road.
Such liberty proved to be a double-edged sword, however, and when Bobridge was involved in a drink driving incident in Girona in June, he realised that he needed to make alterations. The divorce with GreenEdge was made public in September and Bobridge insists the split was an amicable one.
“For myself and my career I think it was best that I got away from where I was comfortable and where, in a way, it was easy for me,” he explained. “It was nothing against GreenEdge because I have a lot of friends there. The whole choice was for my own benefit, my future and my career path.
“I think everyone has a reminder or a setback in their lives, sooner or later. I made a mistake but if something good came out of it, it’s that it did wake me up. I took a step back because I had to sit back and assess what I was doing. And I think coming to Blanco was the best choice for me.”
Bobridge lines up with his new team at this week’s Tour Down Under but in spite of Blanco’s precarious situation – the Dutch squad must find a title sponsor in order to continue beyond 2013 – he is looking at beginning a process that will see him make the metamorphosis from pursuiter to stage race rider.
“Obviously you have to realise that it doesn’t come overnight but I’d like to think I could ride for GC in stage races some day,” Bobridge said. “It’s not going to happen this year or next, it could be five years or six away, but it’s just something I have to work on. First, I really need to do a full road season and see what I like and where I best fit into the team.”
The obvious comparison, of course, is with Bradley Wiggins, who began his startling transformation from the rider who finished 124th in his debut Tour de France once he stepped away from the track in the wake of the Beijing Olympics.
“Wiggins is someone I look up to as someone who converted from the track to the road and he’s done a fantastic job,” Bobridge said. “You can tell he’s done so much work and it took him four years from when he rode on the track last, so it shows you have to stick at it. He’s one of the very few who has actually been able to strip the weight and still perform excellently. He’s shown that it’s possible and it can be done.”
The grand tour on Bobridge’s horizon in 2013 looks set to the Giro d’Italia and he insists that the Italian race will largely be a learning experience. Nonetheless, he admitted that he would be intrigued to see what he could achieve at the Giro, given that, unlike last year, he will not be spending the weeks beforehand treading the boards on the velodrome.
“What’s good this year is that I have months rather than weeks to prepare for it so it will be interesting to do the Giro with some proper road form and see how I handle it, compared to coming into it almost straight from the track, carrying an extra 3 or 4 kilos.”