It was inevitable that one year Orica-GreenEdge would miss out on the medals at the Australian national championships. In 2015 the team missed out on victory having won three straight titles since its 2012 inception. The nine-rider team selected for the 183.2km race contained two trump cards in two-time winner Simon Gerrans and last year's silver medallist. 2013 champion Luke Durbridge was another rider capable of bringing home gold.
At the end of Sunday's race, Orica-GreenEdge could only watch on as former riders Jack Bobridge (Trek-Segfredo) and Cam Meyer (Dimension Data) went one-two and Simon Gerrans was the sole finisher for the team in sixth place. Bobridge made his way in the day's breakaway before going solo with 90km to race when nine minutes clear of the peloton.
"It was an incredible ride from Jack Bobridge - we've never seen a ride like that in national championships history," sports director Matt White said of the race. "It's certainly a very unpredictable ride from a very unpredictable man. We were there riding for the win - whether we finished with a medal or not, we came here to win and it wasn't possible with the way that Jack rode."
"We were the ones who took responsibility for the race, to try to bring him back, but to no avail," White added of the 18 lap race. "He was just too strong.
Reflecting on his win, Bobridge suggested that it’s not always the team with the most numbers that takes home the victory.
“They let the race go by letting that big group go early and not having one of their selected guys in there,” Bobridge said. “Their tactics today, I don’t think they rode the smartest race they’ve ever ridden. Sometimes more riders isn’t that good.”
With two of the pre-race favourites, the impetus was on Orica-GreenEdge to do the lions share of the work during the race. Michael Hepburn and Mitchell Docker represented the team in the day's breakaway but found their way back to the front of the peloton as both riders then spent time on the front to try and bring back Bobridge.
"We had representation in that breakaway," he added. "I actually thought when Jack went with 11 laps to go, when he left Bernie Sulzberger, well that's great because it's too far to go on your own.
Drapac were seen converging near the front of the peloton but it was Orica-GreenEdge seen driving the pace as the threat of Bobridge staying away became a reality. A move from Richie Porte on lap 13 saw the already reduced peloton diminish further, a move that White questioned as both he and BMC teammate Rohan Dennis finished with DNFs to their name.
"A couple of teams did some pretty interesting rides," he said. "The BMC guys were doing intervals on the climb today to try to disturb the pace of the peloton - what it did was implode the race.
"Richie was doing some five-minute efforts up the climb today and you saw after a couple of times, there was no-one left. "Then we had to take responsibility from there."
Having missed its first major target of the year, although the team can take comfort in Caleb Ewan's criterium victory, White explained the team will learn from its lesson and look to win its other Australian targets this summer.
"It's the first of 228 race days for the team," he said. "So it's disappointing we didn't win the national title, but it's one day of a very long season and we just look ahead now to Tour Down Under."
Earlier in the day, the women's Orica-AIS team reclaimed the road title it lost last year with Amanda Spratt taking gold and Rachel Neylan bronze.
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