Australian Road Nationals a 'must win' for Luke Durbridge and Orica-GreenEdge

Reigning Australian Road Race champion says anything less than victory is 'failure'

Western Australia's Luke Durbridge was right on track to capture his third straight men's National Time Trial championship after establishing a 30-second lead over Queenslander, and Orica-GreenEdge teammate, Michael Hepburn at the halfway mark of the 45-kilometre course along Lake Burrumbeet in Ballarat on Wednesday. That was until Hepburn closed the gap and finished on top with an 11-second win over Durbridge with a time of 56 minutes and 29.90 seconds, and more than two minutes over South Australia's Damien Howson to give GreenEdge a clean podium sweep.

Durbridge, 22-years-old, who entered the race fresh off a stage three victory at the Bay Cycling Classic just four days earlier, and had felt the affects of an illness during that period, was frustrated at the lack of time checks, with only one being given at the mid-way point. The 2011 U23 World Time Trial champion told Cyclingnews immediately after the race there was nothing he could do but "savour the moment of how much it hurts" and move on.

Three days on, and Durbridge says that the time trial was a "hard lesson learned."

"You've got to ride all the way to the line," he told Cyclingnews. "I didn't sit up, and I felt I gave it my all, but perhaps I mis-paced it and went out too hard. I was 30 seconds up when I saw [Rohan Dennis] crash and he was my minute man so that sort of played with my head a bit. All credit to Michael as rode a perfect ride. Maybe if I had more information I could have found a bit extra out of desperation. But I take it on board and try to learn from it."

The 2013 National Road Race champion will have an opportunity to put those lessons learned to the test as he defends his crown on Sunday. Durbridge faces a loaded field, which includes teammates Simon Clarke and Simon Gerrans, the 2012 winner. Cadel Evans, Richie Porte, Matthew Lloyd and Dennis will also start. Durbridge believes Drapac Cycling could be dangerous too.

"You can't discount the Drapac boys, Darren Lapthorne and Bernie and Wesley Sulzberger, might get up the road on a break with too much time and then it's all over," he said.

"It's going to be a hell of a fight tomorrow and you've got to be prepared to fight for a whole 180km, not just 70km and then get in a break and the job is done," he continued. "The job isn't done until you finish across the line. I think that's a good thing I can take from the time trial."

The triathlete-turned-cyclist who started cycling at age 14, expects race tactics to mirror those of 2012 where the field was splintered in three to four groups with three laps in before settling down. Durbridge explained  that after a year when the break wins everyone is a little more cautious who they let up the road as it is considered such a hard course to chase on. "I would expect the break to go later because everyone would be a bit wary to let a big break go early," he said.

With such a stacked field, Durbridge says the pressure is on for GreenEdge to make it three in a row.

"It's our race to lose, we have to win it," he said. "We are the WorldTour team and if we don't have the national champion on our squad it's failure. We all know that and the pressure is on. It's probably one of the most stressful races on the calendar for us because we know we have to get 10-12 guys to get together and win it."

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