Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) on Sunday became the first man to double the Australian road titles when he soloed to victory in the elite men’s road race.
Durbridge, winner of the time trial championship earlier this week, left the last of his breakaway companions on the Mount Buninyong climb on the race’s penultimate lap. Bernie Sulzberger (Drapac) held onto his solo chase until the final run-in to the finish in Buninyong when the bunch scooped him up for a run at the minor podium places.
Durbridge’s teammate Michael Matthews kicked for second, winning the field sprint ahead of Steel Von Hoff (Garmin-Sharp), who finished third.
“I want to thank my family, my coach Simon Jones, my girlfriend Lara and the entire ORICA-GreenEDGE team,” said Durbridge. “It’s all good to take the glory at the front of the race, but it doesn’t happen without a true team effort.”
At the start, Durbridge said, he, Cameron Meyer, Simon Clarke and “were given the job of going up the road.”
“There was a bit of an attack early in the first lap, and I went away with a group of seven. We started to work together straightaway.”
The breakaway built up a gap of eight minutes over the first two large loops of the course at Buninyong.
“Once the gap got out to eight minutes, I knew there was a chance that we were racing to win,” said Durbridge. “Generally when a break balloons out that far at nationals, there’s a chance the break will stay away. At that point, I knew it was up to me to step it up.”
As the laps ticked down, the break began to dwindle.
“We began to lose riders each lap,” said Durbridge. “With three laps left, we were only three. I buried myself up the climb, and we got rid of Pat Shaw (Victoria). It was just me and Bernie Sulzberger left after that.
“Bernie is faster than me in the sprint. I knew I had to get ahead of him.”
Durbridge launched his final attack on the penultimate lap.
“I buried myself up the hill with two laps left to race,” said Dubridge. “With Bernie gone, I only had to hold on for the win. The team had a plan, and we stuck to it. People see me take the win, and they don’t realize what goes behind back in the bunch to support my effort.”