Australian comes close to breakthrough gold medal win
He's been part of Australia's most successful team pursuit squad in recent history and today Luke Durbridge further enhanced his reputation as an emerging star with an excellent performance to claim silver in the U23 time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Geelong.
And he came agonisingly close to becoming Australia's second consecutive U23 time trial world champion, with just 1.9 seconds separating him and USA's Taylor Phinney, who was pushed all the way by the 19-year-old West Australian.
"To come so close - 1.9 seconds - at my first [senior] Worlds... I'm pretty stoked," said Durbridge after the finish. "It would've been nice to win but it wasn't to be. I've got next year and hopefully bigger things to come."
Durbridge left the starter's gate early in the event and went out hard early, setting the fastest first lap time of all riders; he then faced a nervous wait as the world's best espoirs riders tried to better the Australian's time of 42:52.19
"I didn't have any time checks that were good to gauge myself on but I just had [Australian coach] James [Victor] in the car yelling at me and telling me to keep my rhythm," explained Durbridge. "When I came in and I was a fair bit faster I thought, 'Hey, we've got a long way to go here' so I just waited and waited and everyone was just coming through slower.
"I guess I didn't expect how good a time mine was throughout the day - I thought it was a good one but I still had ages to wait so I wasn't getting too ahead of myself," he added. "As the day progressed I got a bit more nervous and Taylor put in a fantastic ride and got me on the line.
"I went really hard in the first lap but when they came through and the times just kept coming through... then when I went to doping and came back I was still 17 seconds faster than Taylor and I thought, 'He's one of the favourites, this could be a medal'. I started to get pretty excited, then when he came through 1.9 faster I was a bit 'Argh' but still, you get that. To hold onto second is just unbelievable."
Durbridge's progression on the road has been rapid; coming from a track background he has the natural power to perform well in time trials, something he confirmed with victory in the team time trial at the Thüringen Rundfahrt and the Memorial Davide Fardelli earlier this month. However, he admitted the last 12 months had been a steep learning curve that came to fruition today and hopefully in a future career as a road professional.
"I'd love to turn professional on the road - it's everyone's dream - and I want to turn professional, whenever that is; Tour de France and all that would be fantastic.
"I've done a lot of track, which has helped me on the road and I did my first stint in Europe this year; I struggled for the first six weeks I was over there," said Durbridge.
"When I went back I guess I thought, 'Right, I can have a go at this' and went back and had better results, helping out [Jayco-Skins] teammates like Michael Matthews and Rohan Dennis. It just made me feel really strong and then James [Victor] said, 'Let's focus on the road time trial, you've got a good shot'. I said, 'That sounds good' so we did lots and lots of training leading up until now," continued Durbridge.
Speaking to Cyclingnews yesterday, fellow Australian Rohan Dennis said that pacing was the key to success on the time trial circuit around Geelong and so it was; whilst Phinney's time won the day, Durbridge's ability to maintain a consistent rhythm almost won him top honours. It also provided another useful lesson about suffering in time trials.
"I think I am happy - I've often gone out way too hard and then come into the finish on my knees. I didn't actually feel that I went out that hard, but obviously I did," said Durbridge. "I just went out, the legs were good and I thought, 'Alright, let's just keep rolling with this'
"I went over the first climb and then I was thinking of the next one; James was in the car on the speaker just yelling: 'Control, control, control' so when he said, 'Give it some'... that's when the pain started coming on heading towards the finish.
"That's when I thought: 'Well, I've already given it' but then I also think that was the time I decided: 'Right, I'm going to have to suffer here, all the way to the finish!' And that's what time trialling is all about - suffering. You get to a point and if you go over it, too bad, you've still got to get to the finish line.
"I think I went over it but that doesn't matter. I got to the line and I still think I came home relatively quickly over the last climb, so I'm still happy with the ride."
In the immediate future however, Durbridge will concentrate on helping his Australian teammates take gold in the U23 men's road race, aiming for the first medal in the event since Wes Sulzberger's silver medal at the Stuttgart Worlds in 2007. "We've got a really strong team for the road race; I'll keep my [racing] head on and hopefully we'll get a good result on Friday - I'm going to do my job there and try to get another medal for Australia," he said.
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