Luke Durbridge's decision to re-focus on the time trial in the second half of 2016 saw him claim victory at Duo Normand and earn selection for Australia at the World Championships in October. The 25-year-old has carried that form into 2017 as the Orica-Scott rider was rewarded with silver in the national time trial championships Thursday in Buninyong, 58 seconds in arrears to Rohan Dennis (BMC).
The visit to the podium was Durbridge's first medal since his 2014 silver and fourth career medal having claimed victory in 2012 and 2013. Despite not placing an emphasis on the nationals with the spring classics his major ambition for the season, the medal demonstrated Durbridge's work against the clock has been well worth the effort.
"I am quite happy," Durbridge said of his port-race feeling of claiming the silver medal. "It definitely wasn’t the focus in January, I just wanted to do my aerobic stuff in the off-season and get ready for the classics. You never get to do one-day time trials so I my next one-day time trial might be the world championships so every chance you get to pull on the jersey is always good practice. I actually surprised myself, Rohan is head and shoulders above me for the moment but it has been a while since I have been up there and hopefully I can keep closing that gap and keep getting closer and closer to Rohan. Because when you’re close to Rohan you’re close to the worlds best."
Now embarking on his sixth year in the WorldTour with the Orica team, Durbridge first announced himself back in 2012 by winning the Critérium du Dauphiné prologue ahead of Bradley Wiggins. While the time trial will again become a key element of Durbridge's armoury in 2017, a late World Championships was advantageous to the Western Australian who is well aware of the need to save his legs for Europe after a long year.
"I did a lot of focus for the world championships in the time trial and then it was a quite short off-season so you didn’t have to touch the time trial bike as much," he said of his preparation that saw him arrive back in Australia in late-November. "I think that definitely helped but it also definitely hindered in a way because we are one, maybe two weeks behind what we were last year. You have to have a break because if you don’t have the break then come March your legs are running away from you and that is when you really want to go for it."
Adding further explanation of how to balance his love of racing on home soil and ensuring he doesn't burn out by the classics, Durbridge said that delaying a return to Australia for as long as possible was his secret to success.
"I think one of the best options is to stay in Europe for as log as you can in the off-season so you stay away from the Aussie summer, if I go home to Perth I get fit too quick. There are bunch rides, there are my mates, [riding] five or six hours a day and that is what I grew up doing. January is such a special month for all the Australians. You probably wouldn’t understand it if you were a European rider why you can go at threshold at first bay crit first of January. They would probably through up if they heard that. We just love it and I think the best option is to stay in Europe, stay away from it and then come back and try and stake the focus of it. Even then, I have tried but I still find myself here giving it a red hot crack."
Durbridge will line up Sunday in support of his Orica-Scott team who are chasing its first road title since 2014 before heading across to Adelaide for the Tour Down Under. A training camp in South Africa follows before lining up for the 'opening weekend' of the classics at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne where is aiming to hit the ground running.
"We have big leaders like Mat Hayman and Jens Keukeleire but I think I am in that next tier that will maybe get opportunities in the semi classics, and one day that is what I want to do. You saw what Hayman did at 38, hopefully I have time to do something similar," he said.
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