Fresh from setting the individual pursuit world record at the Australian track championships, Garmin-Cervélo's Jack Bobridge has returned to the road at the Tour of Qatar. The current Australian national road race champion beat Chris Boardman's 1996 record by clocking a time of 4:10.534 in Sydney last week.
"It was a bit of a surprise to tell you the truth," Bobridge told Cyclingnews in Qatar. "My personal best before that was only a 4:14. Everyone thought that Boardman's record was nearly untouchable and I thought it was impossible too.
"To come out and get it in the qualifying round was fantastic. You couldn't ask for much more. My initial goal was to go there to win rather than set a record."
Boardman was typically gracious in his praise of the record-breaking ride and the Bobridge was touched by the Englishman's words. "It was fantastic to see that he was so nice and it meant a lot coming from a guy that did so much in his career," the Australian champion said.
Boardman's 1996 record - using the now-outlawed Superman position - came on the back of finishing the Tour de France for the first time, and the Englishman went on to smash Tony Rominger's world hour record little over a week later. Bobridge explained that like Boardman, he too has the capacity to transfer road form to the track.
"I can normally do a good time coming off a good road block," he said. "Most of my good times have come off of stage races. My two best times ever, this year and last year, have both come off the Tour Down Under."
A different kettle of fish
Bobridge was quick to point out that preparing for the team pursuit was a very different matter, and required an intense block of track training.
"It's completely different for the team pursuit," he said. "You can't really race that quick off of road in the team pursuit compared to individual."
The absence of the individual pursuit from the Olympic programme in 2012 means that Bobridge will have to focus his energies on the team effort in London. While he is disappointed by the UCI and IOC's downsizing of the track programme in order to make room for BMX racing, Bobridge is thinking only of the task in hand.
"It's obviously pretty disappointing but the same time there's nothing you can do about it," he said. "You just have to move on and concentrate on what is there, which is the team pursuit. I really enjoy the team pursuit, so I'll give it a 110 percent go for London in 2012. I think the Aussies have got a good team for it."
Given his obvious good form, Bobridge was highly fancied in the Tour of Qatar's opening short time trial, but he found that the technical course was not suited to his talents.
"It was a bit too technical for my liking coming off the track," he said. "It wasn't really my course. I'd heard about a 2km prologue and I was pretty excited but once I saw it was that technical with the cobbles, I realised it wasn't quite up my alley. I still gave it a go and I'm quite happy with what I did."
Stage one saw the race blown apart in the windy conditions that so often characterise the race. Four of Bobridge's Garmin-Cervélo teammates (Heinrich Haussler, Roger Hammond, Gabriel Rasch and Andreas Klier) were part of the race-deciding break, and he said that he was keen to test himself in the crosswinds of the Gulf.
"It's my first time riding crosswinds here, but I've got the best team to do it with and learn from," he said. "I think I can learn more than I've ever learnt riding with these guys here riding in crosswind conditions."
After the Tour of Qatar, Bobridge will take a break from his road duties in order to build up for the team pursuit at the world track championships in Apeldoorn in March.
"I'll head back to Australia for four or five weeks and get ready for the track Worlds and head then over to Holland," Bobridge said. "Then I'll be back on the road in time to get ready for the Giro."