Durbridge conquers pressure to take Worlds gold

The podium: Quaade, Durbridge and Hepburn

The podium: Quaade, Durbridge and Hepburn (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

After missing out on the rainbow jersey by the tightest of margins in Geelong twelve months ago, Luke Durbridge (Australia) admitted that he felt under immense pressure in the build-up to his winning ride at the under 23 time trial at the UCI World Championships in Copenhagen.

The West Australian’s status as the overwhelming favourite was heightened by a crushing victory in the recent Chrono Champenois, but in spite of his pre-race apprehension, he was a convincing winner on Monday afternoon.

"I’d not normally feel the pressure but I felt pretty sick beforehand," Durbridge said. "Lots of people were talking me up and I had articles telling me that I was the favourite. I think it was probably the most nervous I’ve been for an event, just because I knew I was a big shot to have a go and to win."

As he waited to travel to the start on Copenhagen’s Hans Christian Anderson Boulevard on Monday morning, Durbridge watched on television as his fellow West Australian Jessica Allen took the first gold of the championships in the junior women’s time trial.

"I was sitting in my room about an hour before I came here and I watched Jess Allen take the gold for Australia," he said. "She’s from WA, from my town as well, so it was a really special moment for her and it just motivated me to come out and get mine."

Within minutes of rolling down the start ramp, it was apparent that Durbridge was the class of the field, and he steadily increased his lead at every intermediate checkpoint.

"I had the coach in my ear and he told me I was up at all the time checks so I just had to bring it home," he said. "On the last lap, I took it a little safer on the corners just to make sure I got home.

"My preparation was perfect coming into this and I guess I knew that if everything went well for me today that I was the favourite and I would come out on top, so I had that confidence. I had a really good time trial last week in France, so that put me in good stead. I think everything just lined up for me today."

Looking to London

Even before his world time trial title, Durbridge will have attracted the attention of a number of top-class road teams in recent months, not least the nascent GreenEdge squad. Whatever his destination in the long-term, however, he explained that for the next twelve months at least, his priorities will lie on the track as part of the Australian team pursuit set-up.

"I’d love to go to the Olympics and I think that might be on the track. That might be my best option," Durbridge said. "If pro happens next year, then it happens, but if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. It’s all for the Olympics next year and whatever works around that I guess.

"I’m still very young: I’m twenty years old, so I’ve got a big broad career to come and hopefully I’ll just make my decision when it comes. I’ll be 21 when the Olympics are finished, so I’ll still have a lot to go. Then I can decide."

Durbridge was part of the Australian team pursuit squad that took gold at the world championships in Apeldoorn in March, but warned that competition for places in London would be fierce.

"I’m part of the team this year but there are a few guys missing out, so I’m kind of on the edge and trying to break my way permanently in there," Durbridge admitted. "I’ve got all over the summer in Australia to find out how I’m going to go."

The incentive to focus on the track is an obvious one. With the rainbow jersey resting on his shoulders a matter of minutes, Durbridge is already scanning the horizon for gold of a different hue.

"In Australia, if you’re in the team, then you’re a gold medal candidate for the team pursuit," Durbridge explained matter-of-factly. "That’s what I’m going to be focusing on, I’m going to try and make my way into that team next year."

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Barry Ryan
Head of Features

Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.