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White: Durbridge poised to step onto Three Days of De Panne podium

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Luke Durbridge on the KOM

Luke Durbridge on the KOM (Image credit: Mark Gunter)
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Luke Durbridge takes TT gold at the 2011 U23 road world championships

Luke Durbridge takes TT gold at the 2011 U23 road world championships (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Luke Durbridge takes to the front of the Greenedge train.

Luke Durbridge takes to the front of the Greenedge train. (Image credit: Mark Gunter)
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Luke Durbridge on his way to the gold medal

Luke Durbridge on his way to the gold medal (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Hopes are high for Luke Durbridge (GreenEdge) heading into Thursday's decisive stages of the Three Days of De Panne with the neo pro, competing in his first European race with the team, just six seconds off the general classification lead of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha).

Durbridge's road career recently hit the fast forward button with the 20-year-old making the agonising decision to cut his ties with the Australian track team, where he won a world title in the team pursuit in 2011, earlier than intended.

Over the first two stages at the Three Days of De Panne, Durbridge has finished in the front group. There was a slight scare on Wednesday though with Durbridge and in-form teammate Svein Tuft crashing just two kilometres from the finish in Koksijde. Tuft, who is also a genuine contender for Thursday's time trial, is on the same overall time as the Australian.

"I haven't actually had a chance to talk to the boys yet, so I'm not sure how they crashed," said Sports Director Matt White in a press release. "They all got up pretty quickly and seemed okay. Obviously it's not an ideal situation, but it was inside the final three kilometres, so there's no worry there."

Earlier this month, White told Cyclingnews that "there's no reason why he won't win" final stage time trial over 14.7 kilometres. "It's made for him," White continued. "As long as he gets through the other stages alive, he'll be fine."

Following Wednesday's second stage, White was maintaining his stance regarding the reigning under 23 time trial world champion.

"There's only 90 road kilometres left for him [Durbridge] to get through and then we'll see what kind of time trial he can produce," he said. "I expect that we'll see him on the podium tomorrow afternoon."