A loss for Australia on the track ahead of the UCI Track World Championships in Melbourne and the London Olympic Games, is set to be GreenEdge's gain over the coming months with neo pro Luke Durbridge turning his back on the boards earlier than intended.
The 20-year-old made the decision following the recent UCI Track World Cup in London where he did not make the final selection for Australia's team pursuit (Alex Edmondson, Jack Bobridge, Rohan Dennis and Michael Hepburn) which won gold ahead of Great Britain. Instead, Durbridge competed in the points race where he finished 13th.
It's a bitter blow for Durbridge who fought his way back into the team pursuit squad which won gold in Apeldoorn in 2011, having missed a spot in Australia's winning team in 2010. Standing on top of the podium in Holland last March was an undoubted highlight of Durbridge's track career.
"I had my doubts in the Cali World Cup camp in November," Durbridge told Cyclingnews regarding his future with Australia's track team. "I hadn't made the progression I would have liked to in the TP area. Then at the London camp it just confirmed that I was better-suited to the road and the track wasn't going to happen for me."
Following the London World Cup last month, Durbridge sat down with Australia's Men's Track Endurance Coach, Ian McKenzie to discuss preparation for the world championships which will be held in Melbourne in April and it was decided that the West Australian should switch his focus to the road sooner rather than later.
"Ian and I have worked closely together for a while and he knows what I can and can't do so he was honest by saying my best chance of progressing is on the road not track," Durbridge explained.
Australia's opening kilometre of the event, clocking low to mid 1:02s is where the damage is done to Durbridge who added a few kilos to his six-foot-plus frame for more power over the last 12 months, according to GreenEdge sports director, Matt White.
"These days SRM and everything doesn't lie and you can work out how much power these guys are putting out and how they're adapting," he told Cyclingnews. "The team pursuit is very, very specific now. Durbo will be the first one to admit that the speed they go off at the first kilometre really, really hurts him later in the race.
"He's not an anaerobic machine."
While the track program at the London Olympic Games is now off Durbridge's agenda, he does not feel a spot on the Australian road team is not out of reach.
Straight into the deep end
Durbridge backed up his under23 world individual time trial title with the Australian senior title in Ballarat in January before making his GreenEdge debut at the Tour Down Under. It was an unexpected WorldTour debut with GreenEdge struck by injury with Jack Bobridge, Julian Dean and Baden Cooke all unavailable.
Durbridge has spent the weekend supporting Robbie McEwen, along with Fumiyuki Beppu at the OCBC Cycle Singapore Criterium. Next stop will be the team's Sierra Nevada training camp before White says he'll be "thrown straight into the deep end" in Belgium.
"Realistically we're going to take Durbo to Three Days of De Panne and there's no reason why he won't win the time trial there," White admitted. "It's made for him. As long as he gets through the other stages alive, he'll be fine."
The brutal roads of northern Europe are almost familiar territory for Durbridge who raced at the Olympia's Tour in Holland the previous two years with the Jayco-AIS squad. In 2011, he won the prologue time trial before going on to finish seventh overall, despite the fact that he was nervous to return to the testing conditions the narrow roads and wind offer.
The pave of VDK-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde will be a new experience though which Durbridge describes as an ‘eye opening' one. White believes that with Durbridge's build, it's a move that should pay off long term.
"The earlier these guys are exposed to these sorts of races up north, the earlier they settle in," he explained. "At the end of the day, if Durbo was a Belgian or a Dutch kid, he would have five years of experience in those races in that environment – so he's basically starting from scratch."