When Jack Bobridge blazed to a time of 4:10.534 in the individual pursuit at the Australian Track Championships on Wednesday, he not only demolished the best time ever recorded in a 'standard position' by nearly three seconds, he bested one of the legendary world records in track cycling held by Chris Boardman for nearly 15 years.
On August 29, 1996 at the track cycling world championships in Manchester, England, Boardman won the gold medal in the individual pursuit against Italy's Andrea Collinelli. Both riders were using the then-legal "superman" position on their track bikes, and the 28-year-old Boardman nearly lapped Collinelli to set a world record time of 4:11.114. The position, which was conceived by Graeme Obree, was later banned and the time was considered by many to be now out of reach.
In recent years pursuiters have approached Boardman's time with Bradley Wiggins clocking 4:15.031 at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Geraint Thomas rode 4:15.015 in October, 2009 at a track World Cup in Manchester, England followed by Bobridge's 4:14.427 in February, 2010 at the Australian Track Championships.
In Wednesday's pursuit qualifiers at this year's Australian Track Championships, Rohan Dennis rode 4:13.400 only to have Bobridge, moments later, re-write the record books with a stunning 4:10.534.
"I just thought 'wow, what an awesome ride'. It's quite something to be done in a standard position," Boardman told Cyclingnews. "I always thought someone who was around 4:13, or even low 4:14s, has got to be pretty much the same [as my record ride] when you take the bikes into account. It's a phenomenal ride.
"It isn't something I've talked about for quite a long time because it's 15 years old, so I haven't really thought about it. It's amazing, the interest it's provoked just shows how people are interested in what was possibly the Blue Riband event of track cycling."
Bobridge had been on good form of late on the road, soloing to victory in the Australian road championships and earning a silver medal in the Australian time trial championships in early January. The 21-year-old Australian came into his national track championships having just completed the Santos Tour Down Under, where he rode in support of Garmin-Cervelo teammate Cameron Meyer's winning performance. Bobridge spoke of notching his best pursuit times following a stage race, a situation which Boardman found familiar.
"That's an interesting observation [by Bobridge] because 1996 was the year I went through the whole Tour de France," said Boardman. "I really struggled but was getting better towards the end. I came out of it and I had the best form of my life for probably six to eight weeks afterwards.
"[The world record] was off the back of very, very intense stage racing which is not how I'd normally do things. Normally, I'd want to do it more carefully and controlled thinking about the training."
Boardman spoke of his memories of the time period nearly 15 years ago in which he set the individual pursuit world record, followed nine days later by his 56.375km hour record, also set in Manchester.
"I think what I remember most is just the different images of that event: photographs and pieces of film from it," said Boardman. "I can remember that week where I set the world hour record and the pursuit [world record] was the best form I ever had in my life. Everything around it - weather, air pressure, temperature - just was absolutely perfect for that one thing.
"So from an athletic point of view that's the best I ever was that week, and he's (Bobridge) gone faster."
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