None other than Lance Armstrong tips Jack Bobridge as a name to watch for the future.
The 20-year-old Aussie railed to the U23 men’s time trial world title Wednesday in Mendrisio to prove that Armstrong’s endorsement is deserved.
“You couldn’t ask for much more than that for Lance to mention your name as an up-and-comer,” Bobridge said after dominating the 65-rider field. “It gives me extra motivation. I think I caught his eye a little bit and he’s been following my progress. I met him at the Tour Down Under this year and we had a chance to train together.”
The 20-year-old roared over the 33.2km course in 40 minutes, 44.79 seconds. Stopping the clock 18 seconds slower was Portugal’s Nelson Oliveira for silver and taking bronze was Germany’s Patrick Gretsch at 27 seconds slower.
American Tejay Van Garderen stopped the clock 13th at 1:24 off the pace. Peter Stetina was 20th at 1:43 slower among the field of 65 starters.
Armstrong and Bobridge crossed paths during the 2009 Tour Down Under and the seven-time Tour de France champion immediately took a liking to the out-going Aussie protégé.
Armstrong might have the eye to spot a rising prospect, but it’s Jonathan Vaughters’ Garmin-Slipstream team that will help introduce him into the professional ranks in a two-year contract starting in 2010. Bobridge signed his deal with Garmin in May, weeks before Armstrong’s new RadioShack team got off the ground.
As part of a formal agreement between the Australian cycling federation and Garmin announced in May, Vaughters called Bobridge a top prospect.
“Jack is a phenomenal talent – possibly the most talented rider of his generation,” Vaughters said. “He excels on the road and on the track and makes an outstanding addition to our roster. We are thrilled that he decided to join Team Garmin-Slipstream.”
Bobridge is an experienced hand on the track and was a member of Australia’s fourth-place team in the team pursuit in the Beijing Summer Olympic Games in 2008.
Coupled with the likes of 2008 U23 world time trial champion and future Garmin teammate, Cameron Meyer, the Aussies will be a formidable presence in London.
“With the backing and talent we’ve got, it will bring us back on top. Australia has a lot of motivation to show we’re the best trackies,” he said. “Give us three years and we’ll show we’re back on top.”
It’s Bobridge’s desire to challenge for the gold medal in individual and team pursuit in London 2012 that prompted him to sign with Garmin.
The team is giving him the flexibility to keep London as his top priority as well as ease him into the European pro ranks without putting too much pressure on him.
“I chose Garmin because they had the best program and they’re willing to work with me until 2012. Garmin was the best choice leading up to the Olympics,” he said. “I’ll be riding a full track season until the worlds in March. After that, I’ll move to Girona and build up for the road. I don’t have massive expectations for the first year, but I am looking forward to getting the experience to race with the pros in Europe.”
Bobridge is highly touted, not only for his strength against the clock, but his ability to climb as well. Many tip him as the young rider best positioned to challenge for the Tour de France and carry Aussie colors once riders such as Cadel Evans and Michael Rogers retire.