Australian road champion Luke Durbridge made himself known to the tifosi and peloton by going in the day-long break on the 214km stage into Vincenza. A gentle nudge from his former Orica GreenEdge teammate turned sports director Julian Dean saw the second-year professional attack from the gun on Stage 17 and after some tussling to break free of the peloton's control it appeared the leading quartet could make it all the way to the finish. Durbridge and co were however, caught on the steeper slopes of final climb up to Crosara.
The grand tour debutant was included in the Giro line-up for a number of reasons; his strength in the race against the clock offered the reigning Australian TT champion a chance to shine but the team time trial around Ischia on Day 2 was also a big reason for the powerful youngster to be given the call.
The team effort didn't deliver the result Orica GreenEdge expected but Durbridge's 6th-place in the 54.8km time trial on Stage 8 suggested the young rider had arrived in Italy with very good condition but making it all the way to Brescia would be another matter. Remaining relatively quite since the TT and enduring the rain, snow and mountains lead Dean to suggest the youngest rider in the team's Giro squad was "travelling better" than what he believed.
"Julian said to me today 'look, I know you are actually travelling better than you think you are so I want you to get out there and give it absolutely everything today because you'll be able to get to the finish with the legs you've got'," said Durbridge shortly after crossing the line 8:09 down on dual-stage winner Giovanni Visconti (Movistar).
"I was a bit nervous about that when he said 'I'd rather you get up the road and actually be a part of the race today and pull out in two days time'."
The final week of racing marks the final opportunity for anyone or any team that has missed out, to gain some exposure and perhaps bag that allusive victory. This often means getting into the breakaway is a bit of a lottery but Durbridge's first attack stuck. With a pancake flat stage and only one significant climb near the finish, it was thought the bunch would give them plenty of space but it wasn't quite that simple.
"It was a bit of a funny'ol break, it's the first one I've tried to get in all week and when we got away we kind of played with the peloton a bit and then with about 150k to go we went right, they've sat up at the back so we really gave it some," explained Durbridge about the way the peloton were controlling their gap.
"I gave it as much as I could into the bottom of the climb but I just run out of legs. The Androni guy [Miguel Rubiano] was dancing. I gave it everything but I had nothing to hold on.
"It was a hard stage and a great day out. I'm glad to actually be a part of the race, had a bit of a dig and you can only learn from these things," he added.
Caught on the final climb to Crosara is all part of the learning experience, according to the grand tour debutant who added that one of the biggest lessons from riding a three-week race is that every effort made out on the road will be felt the next day. With a mountain time trial not suited to the Australian TT champion's characteristics, he'll be thankful that the mountains are not immediately to follow.
"It's been a crazy-tough race. This race is so different to other races; the big transfers, the massive amount of kays you do in a grand tour. The biggest thing I think I've learnt is whatever you do, like today, you are going to really pay for it the next day. I'm glad it's a TT tomorrow."
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