Adelaide boy Jack Bobridge, riding for wild card local team UniSA, thrilled his home fans with a perfectly timed sprint to take out Stage 1 of the 2015 Santos Tour Down Under.
Bobridge was part of a four man breakaway along with Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEDGE), Maxim Belkov (Katusha) and Lieuwe Westra (Astana) that formed within the opening 10 kilometres of the stage. After initially missing the break, Bobridge made the decision to ride across the gap and join up with the three escapees, a move that paid off handsomely as he was able to leave his companions when it counted and record his first Tour Down Under stage win.
Belkov attacked the other members of the breakaway repeatedly over the last couple of kilometres, but Bobridge was patient, waiting for the road to start to climb in the last few hundred metres before launching his attack. What was most surprising that the breakaway was still away as the peloton never let the gap get out of hand, but somehow managed to get the timing of closing down the gap wrong and they could be seen bearing down on Bobridge as he sat up to celebrate his victory but it was all too late.
The win shows just what a bold move Bobridge made late last year when he decided to leave Europe to sign with Budget Forklifts in Australia with an eye on track success in 2016. Clearly he has all the necessary attributes for the tough Pro road circuit in Europe and you have to wonder if he is now wondering if he made the right decision. Bobridge, so often found in breakaways at the Tour Down Under, was thrilled to finally breakthrough for a win, saying “I haven’t really come close before in a stage win here. 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”
The stage kicked off under clear skies from the town of Tanunda in the Barossa Valley, with a massive crowd lining the streets.
Borbridge won the first iiNET sprint in the town of Bethany from Westra and Belkov. The second iiNET sprint, also in Bethany was won by Durbridge with Belkov second and Westra third.
The King of the Mountain took the riders up Checker Hill, which was noticeably damaged by the recent bushfires and provided a surreal backdrop as the riders tackled their first real climb this season. Bobridge was first to reach the summit, with Durbridge second and Westra third.
An estimated 85,000 fans lined the streets for the opening stage, and at least as many are expected to turn out for tomorrow’s 150km stage from Unley to Stirling. Bobridge will start tomorrow in the Ochre jersey as leader of the General Classification with a 4 second gap to Westra in second after time bonuses were applied and Durbridge a further 2 seconds back.
Bobridge also leads the Sprint Classification on 15 points, with Westra accruing 14 points and Durbridge third with 13 points. The King of the Mountain Classification also belongs to Bobridge with 10 points, Durbridge has 6 and Westra 4.
Durbridge was named the Most Aggressive Rider for Stage 1 and also leads the Young Riders Classification.
Top ten from Stage 1, with GC gaps
1 Jack Bobridge (UniSA-Australia) 2:59:31
2 Lieuwe Westra (Astana) +0:04
3 Luke Durbridge (Orica GreenEdge) +0:06
4 Maxim Belkov (Katusha) +0:10
5 Niccolò Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre-Merida +0:13
6 Gianni Meersman (Quick-Step) +0:13
7 Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) +0:13
8 Heinrich Haussler (IAM) +0:13
9 Steele von Hoff (UniSA-Australia) 0:13
10 Daryl Impey (Orica GreenEdge) +0:13