SERRA SAN BRUNO, Italy (VN) — Orica-GreenEdge rider Luke Durbridge is quietly enjoying his first grand tour at the Giro d’Italia, with an eye towards Saturday’s 54-kilometer stage 8 time trial.
The 22-year-old Durbridge is a phenom — the first Australian to sport both the national road and time trial jerseys simultaneously — and was the winner of French stage race Circuit de la Sarthe in his neo-pro season last year.
Now, in his second pro season, he’s getting his first taste of a grand tour.
“It’s a big race, the Giro, so everything is just that much bigger than any other race,” Durbridge said, “and that much longer, too.”
At 6-foot-2 and 172 pounds, Durbridge is a specialist against the clock, a former under-23 world TT champion and a member of Australia’s world champion team pursuit squad.
Given Orica’s strength against the clock, particularly in Durbridge and Canadian national TT champion Svein Tuft, the team had a shot at a top finish in Sunday’s stage 2 team time trial. Instead, Orica finished ninth, 28 seconds off Sky’s winning pace. Durbridge said the team had tried a new tactic for the hilly and technical 17.4km course that ultimately didn’t pan out.
“We’re a team time trial sort of team, but the course didn’t suit our style of riders,” he said. “We’re big, power guys, and the course was quite hilly. We tried a bit of a different tactic; we had three guys swapping off at the start, and then the other guys were meant to take over. We were playing with a few ideas. It didn’t go to plan, but, hey, you have to try these new ideas to know if they work or not. It obviously didn’t work in our favor.
“I think our best-case scenario was top five. I don’t think we were going to finish on top of Sky or Movistar. I would have liked to have done better, but now we know, okay, maybe that wasn’t the best idea, and we can go back to the drawing board and for the next team time trial, we can come up with a better plan.”
His biggest career result thus far was his winning the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné prologue, though Durbridge is not necessarily expecting to pull off a similar feat this weekend on a much longer course and against riders like Tuft, Bradley Wiggins (Sky), or Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing).
“Every time trial I do, I have a go at, but also, ok, it’s 55km, it’s stage 8, probably the longest I’ve ever raced in a row, so I’m going to be up against it in the sense that I don’t know where I am going to sit. I’m going into the unknown,” Durbridge said. “I look forward to it, I’m going to give it my best shot, but you just don’t know, on the day, when you rock up to the time trial, how your legs are going to react. But that’s the plan, and we’ll see how it goes.”
Durbridge said competing in his first grand tour wearing the Australian national champion’s jersey was a thrill and an honor.
“For sure, any time you pull on the national champion’s jersey, at any race, is great, but to pull it on at the Giro, at a grand tour, is even a little bit more special,” he said. “Especially being an Australian on an Australian team. I’m proud to be wearing the jersey.”
Asked if he had come to Italy with the intention of finishing his first grand tour, Durbridge said he hoped to, but that he would take it as it comes.
“I’ve spoken with the directors. We’re just going to play it day by day,” he said. “We thought maybe two weeks, and then see how my form is going, and how I’m recovering. For me personally, I’d love to finish the race. That’s my mental aspect, but we’ll just play it by ear.”