Michael Hepburn.
Michael Hepburn. Sarah Harvey

Hepburn upbeat despite title loss

MICHAEL Hepburn may have relinquished his national under-23 road race title but he has had his eyes opened further to the possibilities the future holds.

“Not too good,” was how the Ipswich Cycling Club world champion described his efforts in the 2011 version of the event he won last year, at Ballarat on Sunday.

“I got dropped with about 15km to go.

“We had a strong team with some other leaders up there in the finish.”

The best finished seventh behind winner Ben Dyball, who managed a successful breakaway from the lead pack.

It was a similar story for Hepburn in the national under-23 criterium last Thursday.

“I was in there but didn’t get a go,” Hepburn said.

“It’s 45 minutes and on a circuit like that, it is a bit of a lottery.”

But Hepburn is not getting too down about it all with his sights set on bigger goals, such as the national track titles in Sydney next month and worlds in the Netherlands in March.

He was also far from peak fitness so he knew he would not be near his best.

“I was a little bit sick over Christmas and the New Year,” the 19-year-old said.

“It set me back about 10 days training and really affected me here.”

Hepburn will contest the Tour Down Under with the University of South Australia team, from January 16-23, providing him with the best training possible to get his race fitness back.

“I still feel in reasonable shape,” Hepburn said.

“I’m not flying but I’m okay and that racing will lift me up.”

The other reason he is not getting too down is because he has seen what is possible, as demonstrated by his friend and national track pursuit teammate Jack Bobridge.

The 21-year-old South Australian stunned a field of veteran professionals to take the national road race title on Sunday.

“It was pretty special,” Hepburn said. “It is not often young guys can get up in a race like that.”

It was Bobridge who made the move, 40km into the 163km race, from the peloton to reel in the lead group of six riders.

He did that then with 30km left, went out on his own and held on for a win that left runner-up Matt Goss and third place-getter, Tour de France stage winner Simon Gerrans, in his wake.

Hepburn is two years younger than Bobridge but is following a similar path.

Bobridge was world under-23 time trial champion in 2009, the same year Hepburn broke the under-19 3000m individual pursuit world record.

Last year Hepburn and Bobridge combined as two of the four-man Australian team that took out the world team pursuit title in Denmark.

“It is his second year as a professional so to come out and win against the professional ranks was amazing,” Hepburn said of Bobridge’s ride on Sunday.

“It was one of the best fields we’ve seen in recent years.”

Hepburn has never lacked confidence but now believes nothing stands in his way to achieving his dreams, except maybe Bobridge.

“We know each other quite well,” Hepburn said.

“We’ve done a lot of training together.

“He’s a good friend.

“I’m two years younger than Jack but have followed the same program with track and road racing.

“It shows what is possible, still racing track and road, at such a young age.”

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