There were three things in particular that makes this race a big deal to many of these athletes. First, the honor of winning an Australian national title is obviously a major thing in any cyclist’s career. Second, it could mean up to 25,000 Euro extra to many of these guy’s professional contracts for 2011 (there is no prize money for a podium spot in the National Championships however). Third, there was one spot left in the UniSA team at the Tour Down Under that some of these guys are fighting for. Many riders have been left without contracts with the Pegasus disaster and a spot in the Tour Down Under will hopefully get one of these guys noticed and signed for the 2011 season. Bernard Sulzberger, who was signed with Pegasus, earned that UniSA spot with his fourth place finish.
The many faces of pain and suffering tell how difficult and aggressive it was out there. Looking at results I’m blown away at the world-class field that started the race. Only 48 of the 159 starters finished. Taking a quick look, there were over 50 ProTeam and Pro-Continenal riders and most of the rest were national level riders with continental licenses. That has to be one of the deepest National Championship fields ever assembled in Australia. The average speed of Jack Bobridge was 40.8km/hr. If you’ve ever ridden the course up in Buninyong you’ll understand how fast that actually is.
Congratulations to Jack Bobridge on a sensational win in his “last of the hardmen” style. He’s shown unbelievable class on the track as well as on the road. In 2009 won the U23 TT and Road Race at 19 years old. Later that year he also won U23 Gold at the World Championships in Switzerland with a blistering time trial. Last year after the TdU he set the World Record in the individual pursuit (which is no small feat). Now he’s only 21 but ineligible to race in the U23 because of his ProTeam contract. (This rule was changed shortly after Will Walker won his National title when he was with Rabobank but was still under 23. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to wear the green and gold distinction with Rabobank because of the rules back then)
I’m certain Jack will represent the green and gold jersey proudly on the world stage. Now, will he get the double again this year? We’ll find out on Tuesday when the TT championships are held!
Thanks to the fantastic work by Leigh, James, Jarrod and Beau, here’s a gallery of the 2011 Australian Open Road Championships.