Luke Durbridge stormed to victory in the elite men’s road race at the Mars Cycling Australia National Road Championships. The West Australian put himself in the early break and slowly but steadily rid himself of his breakmates to cross the finish line alone. Durbridge’s double affords him a unique place in cycling history. He is the first Australian male professional to take titles in both the time trial and road race in the same year.
“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.”
Following the plan developed ahead of the race, Durbridge represented the Australian outfit in an early move.
“At the start, Cameron [Meyer], Simon [Clarke] and I were given the job of going up the road,” he explained. “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,” explained 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 in size.
“We began to lose riders each lap,” noted 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 (Tasmania) left after that.”
“Bernie is faster than me in the sprint,” he added. “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 realise what goes behind back in the bunch to support my effort."
Durbridge learned of the historical significance of his accomplishment shortly after earning the road title.
“It’s special to do the double,” he said. “Everyone has pointed out that that I’m the first, and I guess that makes it even more special. My focus has been to win the time trial. With that done, I wanted to do my job for the team in the road race. My job became to win for the team. I’m happy I could pull off the win."
Michael Matthews, bronze medallist in the time trial, went one better today when we won the bunch sprint for silver in the road race. He outsprinted Steele Von Hoff (Victoria) for the second step on the podium.
"Everything worked out perfectly for us today," said Sport Director Matt Wilson. "The guys really followed the plan. We had a plan with a number of different scenarios, and the boys executed brilliantly. Luke rode an incredible race. It was a great bonus to get Michael Matthews on the podium, too."
The team's effort today capped off a hugely successful national championships for ORICA-GreenEDGE that saw Australia’s WorldTour team claim all three titles plus two medals (silver, bronze) over six days of racing.