Durbridge solos to victory at the Australian Road Championships

Early breakaway provides perfect launch pad for Orica GreenEdge

Luke Durbridge (Orica GreenEdge) has won his second Australian national title this week after claiming the Australian national road title on Sunday. Durbridge was part of the early breakaway that reached a maximum lead of over seven minutes before riders slowly began to fall off the pace. The final man left with Durbridge was Bernard Sulzberger who returned to Australia this season to ride for Drapac Professional Cycling.

Sulzberger was caught on the final ascent of Buninyong and held on to finish 10th in the small bunch sprint battling for the medals. A group of 25 arrived at the finish line over 1 minute behind Durbridge who celebrated a historic victory by winning the time trial and the road race in the same year.

Durbridge was left to ride the final lap and a half of the Buninyong circuit on his own, riding into the finishing straight with time to savour his amazing win.

"The last six k was one of the most amazing feelings I've ever had," said an emotional Durbridge at the finish.

"I buried myself up the hill with two laps left to race," said Dubridge. "With Bernie (Bernard Sulzberger) gone, I only had to hold on for the win. The team had a plan, and we stuck to it. People see me take the win, and they don't realise what goes behind back in the bunch to support my effort."

"It's special to do the double," he said. "Everyone has pointed out that that I'm the first, and I guess that makes it even more special. My focus has been to win the time trial. With that done, I wanted to do my job for the team in the road race. My job became to win for the team. I'm happy I could pull off the win."

Orica GreenEdge's latest recruit Michael Matthews won the sprint for silver as the remnants of the early breakaway were finally swept up in the closing laps. First-year professional Steele Von Hoff (Garmin-Sharp) took the final spot on the podium thanks to his third-place.

"I must have been going ok to get over those climbs with the front guys and still have a sprint in the finish," said Matthews. "Luke rode awesome, he was amazing and it took the pressure of us a lot."

Having rallied his teammates in the closing laps to control the pace, Von Hoff was happy with taking his second medal of the championships. The Garmin-Sharp rider claimed third-place earlier in the week at the criterium.

"The Garmin-Sharp boys did an awesome job out there today," said Von Hoff from the podium. "It worked well."

How it unfolded

The 132-rider peloton took a calmer approach to the start of this year's Australian Road Cycling Championships. Rolling out from the start and toward the first ascent of the famous Buninyong climb there was a distinct lack of attacks as the bunch remained intact while sitting on 30km/h. It wasn't until over the top of the climb that a group formed off the front.

Reaching speeds in excess of 80km/h a group of six managed to break clear. Bernard Sulzberger (Drapac Professional Cycling), Blair Windsor (Budget Forklifts), Pat Shaw (Huon-Genesys Wealth Advisers), Cameron Bayly (search2retain), James Mowatt (Vic) and Luke Durbridge (Orica GreenEdge) and James Szollosi quickly gained a gap over the charging peloton.

With little interest in chasing the break their lead rapidly grew as the front group of six rode towards the last-minute course change. A burst water main on the main descent of Fisken Road meant the twisting descent was deemed too dangerous to use.

A minor change to the route had the race travel along a parallel road that was straighter and significantly quicker. This modification would however, do little to impact the race.

Entering the start/finish for the first time the leading group has broken clear by over six minutes. Hitting Buninyong for the second time Richie Lang (Raleigh) was surprisingly struggling with the pace. His day was finished suggesting the rider who performed strongly at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour may have come into the championships with an illness.

With less than 40km covered the commissaries instructed team managers to put riders on the front of the bunch to control the gap to the break. If the front group reached the 10 minuted mark, the peloton would likely be pulled off the course. With the smaller laps covered in a little under 15 minutes the bunch soon began to lift the pace.

It was at this time Orica GreenEdge instructed Durbridge to cease working with the breakaway.

Trent Wilson instructed his GPM-Data#3 squad to set tempo on the front in an attempt to get other teams involved. Their pace-setting reduced the gap immediately until they decided to cease their efforts.

Pre-race favourite Will Walker (Drapac) punctured around the 60km and a number of teammates slowed to wait for their leader. Walker had played down his form at a Gala Dinner earlier in the week but the caged Victorian remained at good odds with the bookies.

Fearing their race may soon be over, the attacks started coming out of the bunch. Groups formed before coming back into the fold but it did succeed in reducing the gap to just under five minutes after two hours of racing.

Getting to the end of the last of the larger laps it was Dan Bonello (Parramatta Race Team) and Andrew Crawley (GPM-Data#3) who tried their luck off the front. The Sydney training buddies gained time on the dawdling bunch and made some inroads into catching the break during their stint away. Their time would be short-lived however, as they were caught by the peloton after three laps away.

The breakaway began to work together again with Durbridge swapping turns for the next few laps. Coming into six laps-to-go both Bayly and Szollosi began to suffer. Bayly who was leaing the Hill Climb classification was dropped briefly as Sulzberger took maximum points. Bayly would of course need to continue to suffer if he was to pick up the classification jersey at the end of the day. Szollosi meanwhile made his way back to the group as they crested the top.

Another lap down and the leaders had maintained their lead of over five minutes. The pace became too much for Windsor and Szollosi, both being despatched from the pace set by the stronger riders leaving Shaw, Durbridge and Sulzberger at the head of the race.

Still some distance behind the leading trio, Mark O'Brien (Raleigh) increased the pace on the climb and brought out the reaction of last year's bronze medal winner Richie Porte (Team Sky). O'Brien's climbing skills put most of the peloton into difficulty and split it in half. O'Brien was caught but the remaining dropped riders would not see the main group again.

With four laps to go former winner of the Australian road title Jack Bobridge (Blanco Pro Cycling) attacked the shrinking peloton and took Orica GreenEdge rider and previous Tour de France green jersey winner Baden Cooke for company. Cooke would not be contributing to the chase with Mowatt also being picked up by the determined Bobridge.

After his disappointing ride in the time trial earlier in the week Bobridge was clearly on a mission. The Blanco rider was soon joined by a number of fellow professionals with Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp), Simon Clarke, Travis Meyer and Leigh Howard (Orica GreenEdge, Mathew Hayman (Team Sky), Will Walker (Drapac) and Lachlan Norris (Raleigh) went in pursuit.

Durbridge attacked his breakaway companions entering the feed zone and while Shaw and Sulzberger managed to follow the accelerations of the time trial champion at first, it proved too much for Shaw who cracked before the top of the KOM.

The chase group had been absorbed into what was left of the peloton and with two laps remaining the gap was still 2:55 with approximately 20km to go.

Within the main field was a huge contingent of Orica GreenEdge riders along with those from Sky, Saxo-Tinkoff and Garmin-Sharp.

Entering the penultimate climb to Buninyong Sulzberger was put into difficulty before Durbridge took off own his own. The time trialling ability of Durbridge was soon put on show as he entered the final lap with more than two minutes over the remaining chase. Sulzberger wouldn't be caught until the top of the ascent of Buninyong with approximately 15 riders set to battle out the final positions on the podium.

At the finish it was an exhausted Durbridge who had time to spare, waving to the huge crowd that had just watched his amazing feat take place. 

More to come...

Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Luke Durbridge (WA)5:00:46 
2Michael Matthews (ACT)0:01:04 
3Steele Von Hoff (Vic)  
4Neil Van Der Ploeg (Vic)  
5Christopher Sutton (SA)  
6Jay McCarthy (Qld)  
7William Walker (Vic)  
8Zakkari Dempster (Vic)  
9Simon Gerrans (Vic)  
10Bernard Sulzberger (Tas)  
11Cameron Wurf (Tas)  
12Cameron Meyer (WA)  
13Mark O'Brien (Vic)  
14Lachlan Norris (Vic)  
15Nathan Earle (Tas)  
16Jai Crawford (Tas)  
17Daniel McConnell (Vic)  
18Jay Bourke (Vic)  
19Matthew Lloyd (Vic)  
20Adam Hansen (Qld)  
21Karl Evans (SA)  
22Travis Meyer (WA)  
23Mathew Hayman (ACT)  
24Darren Lapthorne (Vic)  
25Robbie Hucker (Vic)  
26Leigh Howard (Vic)0:01:15 
27Ben Dyball (NSW)0:01:35 
28Fabio Calabria (ACT)0:02:06 
29Chris Jory (NSW)  
30Shaun McCarthy (Vic)  
31Marc Williams (ACT)  
32Jason Spencer (Vic)  
33Cal Britten (Vic)  
34Richard Porte (Tas)  
35Nathan Haas (ACT)0:02:58 
36Michael Cupitt (ACT)0:03:03 
37Adrian Jackson (Vic)  
38Jack Anderson (Qld)0:04:24 
39Tom Leaper (Vic)0:05:43 
40Simon Clarke (Vic)0:05:46 
41Matthew Goss (Tas)  
42Thomas Palmer (ACT)  
43William Clarke (Tas)  
44Joseph Lewis (NSW)0:06:40 
45Steven Waite (Vic)0:07:10 
46Nick Bensley (Vic)0:08:13 
47Peter Herzig (Qld)0:10:40 
48Peter English (Vic)  
49Alexander Smyth (Vic)  
50Nathan Elliott (Vic)0:11:45 
51James Szollosi (Qld)0:15:19 
DNFAnthony Giacoppo (WA)  
DNFBaden Cooke (Vic)  
DNFJack Bobridge (SA)  
DNFJonathan Cantwell (Qld)  
DNFRohan Dennis (SA)  
DNFMark Renshaw (NSW)  
DNFMitchell Docker (Vic)  
DNFGraeme Brown (WA)  
DNFDavid Woolsey (Vic)  
DNFNicholas Woods (NSW)  
DNFNicholas Wood (SA)  
DNFSamuel Witmitz (Vic)  
DNFEdward White (NSW)  
DNFJohn Walker (Vic)  
DNFAdam Trewin (Vic)  
DNFTomas Szollosi (Qld)  
DNFWesley Sulzberger (Tas)  
DNFDaniel Strauss (Vic)  
DNFPatrick Shaw (Vic)  
DNFAllan Satchell (Vic)  
DNFDean Sanfilippo (Vic)  
DNFSam Rutherford (NSW)  
DNFMalcolm Rudolph (Qld)  
DNFRico Rogers (Vic)  
DNFAndrew Roe (SA)  
DNFTom Robinson (Tas)  
DNFRhys Pollock (NSW)  
DNFLuke Pledger (WA)  
DNFDavid Parsons (SA)  
DNFDaniel O'Keefe (NSW)  
DNFJames Mowatt (Vic)  
DNFNick Morgan (Vic)  
DNFChristian McDonald (Vic)  
DNFCameron McDonald (Vic)  
DNFLiam McCarthy (Qld)  
DNFMathew Marshall (Qld)  
DNFAlastair Loutit (ACT)  
DNFShaun Lewis (ACT)  
DNFRichard Lang (NSW)  
DNFCaleb Jones (NSW)  
DNFShannon Johnson (Vic)  
DNFSaxon Irvine (NSW)  
DNFJon Houston (SA)  
DNFJames Henry (Vic)  
DNFDean Heathcote (Vic)  
DNFDylan Hately (Vic)  
DNFStuart Grimsey (Vic)  
DNFBen Grenda (Tas)  
DNFDavid Gillies (ACT)  
DNFSean Finning (Vic)  
DNFLuke Fetch (Vic)  
DNFBlair Windsor (NSW)  
DNFMark Fagg (Vic)  
DNFReece-Emerson Van Beek (Vic)  
DNFMichael Troy (NSW)  
DNFBrodie Talbot (NSW)  
DNFJacob Sutherland (Vic)  
DNFNicholas Squillari (Vic)  
DNFSamuel Rix (Vic)  
DNFAntony Dimitrovski (NSW)  
DNFJonathan Lovelock (Vic)  
DNFBrad Davies (SA)  
DNFNicholas D'Ambrosio (NSW)  
DNFJacob Kauffmann (NSW)  
DNFStephen Cunningham (SA)  
DNFAndrew Crawley (NSW)  
DNFJayden Copp (Qld)  
DNFMichael Freiberg (WA)  
DNFBradley Clark (Vic)  
DNFPeter Casey (Vic)  
DNFCorrey Edmed (Qld)  
DNFThomas Donald (Qld)  
DNFLee Burchell (Vic)  
DNFVaughan Bowman (Vic)  
DNFDaniel Bonello (NSW)  
DNFJonathan Bolton (WA)  
DNFEtienne Blumstein-Jones (ACT)  
DNFCameron Bayly (SA)  
DNFKenneth Ballhause (Vic)  
DNFMichael Hepburn (Qld)  
DNFLachlan Morton (NSW)  
DNSStuart O'Grady (SA)  
DNSKane Walker (Vic)  
DNSGeoff Straub (NSW)  
DNSPeter Smith (Vic)  
DNSChris Jongewaard (SA)  
DNSLuke Tuddenham (Vic)  
DNSJoel Strachan (Vic)  
DNSRowan Dever (Vic)  
DNSRuan Benson (Qld)  
Hill climb classification
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Luke Durbridge (WA)20 pts
2Bernard Sulzberger (Tas)13 
3James Szollosi (Qld)8 
4Cameron Meyer (WA)2 
5Mark O'Brien (Vic)1 
6Darren Lapthorne (Vic)1 
DNFCameron Bayly (SA)21 
DNFPatrick Shaw (Vic)9 
DNFBlair Windsor (NSW)3 

 

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