COPENHAGEN (AFP) – Australian Luke Durbridge produced a time trial masterclass to achieve his ambition for this year by winning the under-23 men’s gold at the road world championships on Monday.
The 20-year-old, who finished second in the event last year in Geelong, Australia, clocked a winning time of 42min 47.13sec for the 35.2 km course to push local hope Rasmus Christian Quaade down into second place.
Another Australian, Michael Hepburn, finished third to take the bronze having crashed three-quarters of the way into his ride.
“It’s fantastic,” said Durbridge, who admitted that watching fellow western Australian Jessica Allen win the women’s junior time trial gold earlier in the day had given him a boost.
“I watched Jess win the gold an hour before my race, that was a special moment for her and I wanted to come out here and get mine (gold).”
Durbridge came into the championships two kilos heavier than last year’s championships because the flatter profile of the course would require more sustained power.
In the absence of American Taylor Phinney, who pipped him to the gold last year, Durbridge covered every eventuality to make sure he made the top step of the podium.
“We worked a little bit on more power this year so I could maintain my rhythm,” he explained. “This course is just about getting up to speed, then you just lock in and you hold that the whole way.”
The Australian, already a world team pursuit champion on the track, had shown a glimpse of how his training was going when he powered to victory in the ‘Chrono Champenois’ time trial in France last week. Once off the start ramp it was clear he could be the man to beat on the mainly flat but technical course.
Russian Anton Vorobyev had set the early pace in a time of 43:46, and then Hepburn took provisional top spot when he stopped the clock in 43:33. Quaade had bested Hepburn’s halfway time by three seconds, and the Dane gave it everything in the second, 17.6 km lap to come over the line 11 seconds faster than the Australian. His efforts meant he practically fainted when he came off his bike, but Quaade would suffer a bigger blow moments later when Durbridge stormed over the finish line to beat him by a massive 35 seconds.
“I’m happy. Durbridge was much better than me today so I can’t complain,” conceded Quaade.
Hepburn has bigger ambitions for the under-23 men’s road race on Friday, but was left wondering what might have been.
The 20-year-old avoided one crash on a tricky corner, but lost it moments later when going round a left-hand bend. Although he got up for a quick bike change, he crucially lost momentum, and precious time.
“You don’t plan for these things to happen. It shakes you up a bit, you lose time and in an event like this you can’t afford to do that,” he said.