There was no time-trial hotseat at the Tour of Qatar, so after setting the early fastest time, Michael Hepburn was watching the remaining riders from the front seat in the Orica-GreenEdge team car.
With no live feed and only the occasional update from returning teammates, Hepburn relied on his dad, back home in Australia, to text him the times and positions of the 139 riders to come after him.
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Until, that was, with around ten minutes to go until the final rider finished his ride, his phone’s battery ran flat.
“There were a lot of big names to come and I expected them to top me,” Hepburn said at the finish. “I wasn’t nervous until about an hour to go.”
It was a member of staff on his GreenEdge team that finally told him the news that the last riders off who could come close to his time, Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Lars Boom (Belkin), had failed to beat him.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, it’s my first outing in my national colours,” the Australian national time trial champion and 2012 Olympic team pursuit silver medalist said.
“It’s always good to bring the green and gold colours to Europe, and the Middle East, it’s really special. Even just riding to the start line I felt pretty proud.”
Although he might not have expected to win, the 22 year-old had dedicated several training sessions in the last two weeks to riding a 10.9km time trial on a standard road bike, as was demanded by the Tour of Qatar’s only time trial stage.
When less than a second separated him from second place Boom, his attention to detail paid off.
Although there is only so much modification that could be done to his Scott Foil bike, he raised his saddle and pushed it forward to replicate his position on the time trial rig and opted for a pair of 75mm Shimano Dura-Ace wheels.
Of course, even on a road bike, you can tell a true tester by their little aerodynamic tricks.
As Hepburn prepared to step onto the podium, his soigneur was unable to take the race number off his custom skinsuit.
Hepburn had pinned it on with the safety pins on the inside, although he probably wished he didn’t have to pin anything on it at all.
“I was particularly motivated today, not just because it’s a TT and I want to do well but also because it’s the jersey,” he said.
“The team brought the kit over from Europe the other day and I hung my skinsuit up in the wardrobe of the hotel room, just so I could have a glance at it every now and again.”