With mountain stages on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and the last day into Milan on Sunday being suited for the sprinters, Wednesday is the last opportunity for the rouleurs from teams not contending for the overall classifications to escape on the flatter – but certainly not flat – terrain of the 134km 17th stage from Tirano to Lugano.
Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) is such a rider, and his confidence is bubbling well after his 10th place in Saturday’s stage 14 time trial from Treviso to Valdobbiadene.
Most significant about the Australian’s time trial performance was not the result, but that it reassured him that he would be strong going into the third week.
The Australian did not target the time trial as he would normally do, considering he started the Giro off the back of sustaining two broken ribs and cuts in a crash one week before the race started on May 9. His main job was to throw his all into the stage 1 team time trial that Orica-GreenEdge won and then see what happens.
Durbridge, 24, told Cyclingnews that Orica-GreenEdge head sports director Matt White told him at the start: “Just ride through the Giro and see if you can get better.”
Looking back on the Giro so far, Durbridge said: “The first week was really hard.
"My level wasn’t anywhere where it should have been and [I did] things like helping Simon [Gerrans] and [Michael] Matthews. I have been feeling much better since.”
But with a solid showing in last Saturday’s time trial, Durbridge has been reassured.
Racing smart as well as strong
The real challenge for Durbridge will be putting his good back-end form into best use on Wednesday and also reading well the inevitable attacks that will come early in the stage from riders who share similar motivation, and then getting into the day’s main break.
Even then, he knows the fate of such a break could still hinge on the intent of those teams whose sprinters can climb hills well and would want a bunch finish.
“Luka Mezgec (Giant-Alpecin), Fabio Felline (Trek) … Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) and Elia Viviani (Sky) … They are all climbing quite well,” Durbridge said.
“There are not too many opportunities for them and they’ve gone for the sprint jersey.
“You can feel it early ... if the break starts to go and it has taken a long time to go … sure the break could go for the line and that is when I might put my hand up for it.
“But if Sky, Trek and Giant-Alpecin are shutting it down, [the breakaway] is definitely going to come back. So you might wait for a little attack nearer the finale.”
Making the right call is something Durbridge, who signed with Orica-GreenEdge in 2012, says he is getting better at and attributes to the experience of having raced in four Grand Tours since 2013 – three editions of the Giro and last year’s Tour de France.
“Getting through a ‘grandy’ now is not a lot easier, but you understand what it is,” he said.
“Some days you get you understand what it is. Some days you just suffer through and some days you don’t… and you understand your role.
“This is my third Giro and fourth ‘grandy’ in terms of that so I am starting to realise what to do and how to do it.”
Racing for three weeks – a change in mindset
Having something to race for in the third week of a Grand Tour is also a valuable experience in terms of helping Orica-GreenEdge develop into a team that has the mindset to one day be capable of supporting a rider who will vye for overall victory.
Orica-GreenEdge has proven it can start a grand tour well and dominate for the first week; especially if there is a team time trial in which they are always a favourite.
But the team wants to evolve into a Grand Tour contender and has British Yates twins – Simon and Adam – and Colombian Esteban Chaves pencilled in as future Grand Tour leaders.
Durbridge is certainly aware that “racing” for three weeks is a vastly different story.
“For sure. I was talking to a couple of other teams in the bunch about it,” he said. “There is an interesting mentality with a team that is chasing success all the way to Milan and a team that gets a success and doesn’t have to necessarily chase success.
“There is a big difference between riding to target a few stages and then ride every single day on the front and look after a leader. Our team is heading that way.”
Rupert Guinness is a sports writer on The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media)
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