It took five attempts but Jack Bobridge can now call himself a stage winner at the Tour Down Under. The 25-year-old won the opening stage of the 2015 edition of the race from a four-man breakaway as the peloton breathed down their necks. With his attempt on the hour record taking place on January 31, the WorldTour race was meant to be a training ride for the Adelaide-local but sensing that today could suit a breakaway, Bobridge came up trumps in Campbelltown after 133km of racing
"I haven't really come close before in a stage win here," Bobridge said after winning the first WorldTour stage of the season. "I've always been aggressive. But to take out the first stage and wear the leader's jersey tomorrow - I'm speechless, I don't know what to say."
Having stepped down to Continental level with BudgetForklifts as he eyes gold at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Bobridge's only chance to race the Tour Down Under was with the UniSA wildcard team. Bronze in the Australian national time trial and sixth in the road race earned him selected for the WorldTour event and he immediately justified that decision with a cunning victory as he held off the fast finishing peloton.
"I learned the lesson from the national when I went too early," he said of last weekend when he lead out the sprint only to finish sixth. "The bunch was charging just behind us but I kept it cool."
Bobridge was the last of the four riders to join the day's breakaway after Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge), Lieuwe Westra (Astana) and Maxim Belkov (Katusha) jumped clear from the bunch after three kilometres. The quartet's lead reached a maximum of just over two-and-a-half minutes as Team Sky and Giant-Alpecin came to the front of the peloton to control the race. The gap then jumped around between one and two minutes for the next 90km as the peloton looked content with how the stage was playing out.
When the leaders reached the base of the sole climb of the day up Checker Hill with just 100km of racing done, it appeared the break was doomed but Bobridge had other ideas. The first to crest the climb ahead of Durbridge, Bobridge ensured he would be making at least one trip to the podium by claiming the king of the mountains jersey and then set about bombing down the descent as he reached speeds of 100km/h.
With the final 30km of the race a fast descent into Campbelltown, timing was always going to be key to the catch and despite the peloton having the break in their sights, Bobridge kept his cool and jumped from fourth wheel to quickly distance his breakaway companions with plenty of time to celebrate victory.
"To be honest, when we heard that we had only 20 seconds or so over the bunch, all the guys pretty much gave up," he said of the final kilometres. "It was an all day game. We played it perfectly and stayed away. having Luke Durbridge along in the break, not only another Australian but a good mate of mine, was an advantage. The other advantage I had was knowing the roads.
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