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Arthritis forces Australian champion to ride into retirement

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Jack Bobridge, three-time Olympian and reigning national road champion of Australia,  has succumbed to the effects of rheumatoid arthritis and retired from cycling.

Bobridge was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2010 but has been able to manage the chronic condition while still riding. Now its mounting toll and a readiness to move on with the next phase of life has led him to retire.

“I don’t really care what anyone else thinks I could have done or what I’ve done, I only went back to Europe this year to finalise things in my own head and I found it wasn’t enjoyable with the arthritis and the pain,” he told The Advertiser. “The stuff you have to go through in the Grand Tours (2016 Giro d’Italia) and racing, it’s just not fun. There’s pain in my feet, hands and my back. When you get the flare ups, your body is fighting it and a Grand Tour is hard enough as it is.”

Adelaide born and raised, Bobridge is now living in Perth, where he is about to open his new gym and cycling fitness centre.

“Since the (Rio) Games and backing off the training and racing load I’ve found my arthritis has been 100 per cent better and I’ve been able to get off all meds (medication) as well,” he said. “Obviously I love the bike, the racing and the lifestyle, but I’ve got a two-year-old (daughter) now and I could drag on for three or four years but come 40 or 50 the damage it’s going to do and the arthritis in my body … I don’t see sport is worth it.

“I haven’t thought ‘am I doing the right thing?’ and I suppose after a few months of not racing if you haven’t got that hunger I guess you know it’s the right decision.”

Bobridge’s greatest triumph is the world record in the individual pursuit on the track. In 2011 he broke the ‘unbeatable’ record that Chris Boardman set in 1996 with a time of 4.10.534 at the Australian track championships. Bobridge was often regarded as an all-or-nothing rider.

“That over everything was pretty special because I remember the first track worlds I did (American) Taylor Phinney beat me and we went to an after-party and he said to me ‘why don’t you just control yourself in the first 2km and you could probably win?’ And I said ‘well, if I keep doing this every time I get further and further, so what about the day when I don’t die and I ride fast?’ In Sydney that morning that’s what I’d been training and racing for.”