Luke Durbridge has been named as the replacement for the injured Jack Haig in the four-man Australian squad taking on the 234 kilometre road race at the Tokyo Olympic Games on July 24.
The 30 year old Durbridge, a five-time national champion across the time trial and road race, will be making his Olympics debut as he lines up alongside Richie Porte, two-time time trial world champion Rohan Dennis and Lucas Hamilton on a course that tackles 4,865 metres of vertical ascent.
“As ever, the selection was made difficult by the depth of talent available in the Australian men’s road ranks, and the withdrawal of Cameron Meyer for personal reasons and Jack Haig for medical reasons,” said Simon Jones, Australian Cycling Team’s Performance Director.
“We have selected from riders available who can provide world-class support on what is an extremely challenging hilly Olympic road race course profile. Luke brings a wealth of experience to the team and we look forward to seeing him in Japan where he will form a strong Australian outfit with Richie Porte, Rohan Dennis and Lucas Hamilton."
Haig pulled out of the team after he broke a collarbone on stage 3 of the Tour de France, while National champion Meyer withdrew earlier in July to spend time with his family as his father battles brain cancer. It was then that the 25 year old Hamilton, was bought into the team. However he has since pulled out of the Tour de France following a crash on stage 13, in which the Team BikeExchange rider suffered an injury to his right shoulder with X-rays showing an AC joint dislocation.
The Australian team may not enter the road race among the top favourites, but still stands in good stead with Porte, who last year stood on the GC podium at the Tour de France, expected to lead the squad. Dennis is also a strong contender in the time trial, finishing fifth at Rio despite a broken aero bar that made a bike change necessary. He has also twice been the time trial world champion since then.
The climbing strength of the team revolves around Porte, Dennis and Hamilton, with Durbridge certainly not a climber, but he has regularly proven his worth as a powerful workhorse while riding for Team BikeExchange. The Western Australian has also been prominent in breaks on stages with plenty of ascent this Tour de France, which may have helped allay any doubts that he was able to hang in long enough to be a useful teammate on the climb heavy course.
Porte is also currently riding the Tour de France, supporting the overall hopes of Ineos Grenadiers teammate Richard Carapaz. No doubt the Australian selectors will be hoping all runs smoothly for the rest of the Tour and there are no more changes to the squad.
“We wish Cam and Jack all the very best, and we hope every rider in the Tour has a safe and successful passage through the remaining stages,” said Jones.
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