Durbridge gears up for first Grand Tour start in 2013

Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) kicked off his second season in the elite road ranks in style, celebrating as he won the Portarlington Criterium at the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic on Wednesday. It's not often that Durbridge is able to claim the win in a race other than a time trial, so he was going to savour this one.

"I don't get to win too many bunch races, it's more time trials and you can't really [celebrate] across the line doing that unless you're Cancellara so I was pretty happy," Durbridge admitted following the win.

Durbridge is in line to make his first appearance in a Grand Tour in 2013, at the Giro d'Italia, and his early-season build-up will include a somewhat surprising start at the Tour de Langkawi. Durbridge isn't phased by the mountains on the course and knows that it will provide valuable race mileage.

"It's eleven days’ worth of racing," he told Cyclingnews. "I'm doing the Giro this year so it will be good to get some climbs in in the heat. It will be a really tough tour for me so I'll use it to get through and help out Aidis Kruopis in the sprints and put Cameron Meyer in a good position in the Genting Highlands, things like that. Maybe there's a stage I can go for…"

When it comes to the Giro, Durbridge said there was no set time for how long he expects to be able to compete, explaining that it would be dependent on how his body handled the three-week race.

"The last week of the Giro is really, really tough so for me it's just a matter of playing it by ear," he said. "Go for the team time trial, the individual time trial and then see how we go..."

The 21-year-old will be targeting a repeat performance next week at the Cycling Australia Road National Championships where he took out the elite men's time trial title at his first attempt in 2012. After the semi-classics, his immediate lead-in race to the Giro is likely to be the Tour de Romandie.

Durbridge has been the subject of a lot of talk at this year's Bay Crits, not only due to his win on Wednesday but also for the noticeable change in his appearance. After a solid year of racing mostly on the road having bid farewell the track, it's a more refined Durbridge in 2013.

"I'm probably about two kilos lighter than what I was this time last year," he explained. "I definitely haven't been trying but after a long season it's just settling down a little bit."

In 2012, Durbridge claimed overall victories at Circuit de la Sarthe - Pays de la Loire, Tour du Poitou-Charentes, Duo Normand (with Svein Tuft) along with stage wins at the Critérium du Dauphiné and the team time trial win at the Eneco Tour. It was a big year to kick off a career in the WorldTour but it's not something that weighs heavily on Durbridge.

"I put a lot of expectation on myself so I don't really think about what everyone else thinks," he shrugged. "If I want to win I just try and put myself in a good position to win. GreenEdge aren't putting any added pressure on me for events. They give me opportunities and if I take them, I take them. If I can replicate it and go one better, that wouldn't be bad."

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