GRENOBLE, France (VN) — Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) knocked one out of the ballpark on Sunday, winning the Critérium du Dauphiné prologue against a startlist of who’s who in cycling. The win backs up his overall victory in the Circuit de la Sarthe and underlines the Australian’s talent in only his debut season.
The 21-year-old went off early on the 5.7km course, posted the fastest time and waited. One by one, the bigs came in. Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) rode six seconds slower and placed an eventual ninth. David Millar (Garmin-Barracuda) was 10 seconds slower, eventually landing 18th. And, off last as defending Dauphiné champion, Bradley Wiggins (Sky) closed within one second and settled for second place.
Durbridge took shelter from the wind as his rivals raced. The weather picked up in the late afternoon and brought along rain for some of the competitors. When Wiggins went off, he raced on a mostly dry course.
“I flipped the coin and it landed on my side,” Durbridge said in a press conference. “I saw it was wet for the others, so I picked the right time. I’ve had it go either way on me. I’ve raced in the rain and didn’t get results.”
“We started earlier, we thought it would rain,” team director, Lorenzo Lepage told VeloNews. “We made a choice yesterday. We put him and Gerro [Simon Gerrans] early, thinking about the conditions.”
Lepage paused and added, “It’s Luke’s first time here; he wins the prologue… It’s been impressive.”
Durbridge raced on the road and the track growing up. Before turning pro, he won the under-23 world time trial title in Geelong, Australia. He kept training on the track as late as this year in hopes of making Australia’s team pursuit roster for the London Olympics. He failed to make the cut, but it may have opened other doors.
“He didn’t come here with the idea to win the race, but he came with the idea of doing well in the TT,” added Lepage. “He prepares well for each TT he does because he knows he has a chance to be on the podium or to be in the top five… He prepares well and the results show.”
Lepage explained that Durbridge’s main goal is the 53.3km TT on Thursday and that these time trials are the key to his future.
“If you can do that today, then it means you got a great future,” said Lepage. “If you have the talent to TT, then you can win races. Everyone knows that small differences make the difference, and TTs normally make a difference. He may have a chance in stage races for the overall. You just don’t know.”
In just his first year on the WorldTour, Durbridge is searching for where he fits. His win on Sunday gives some insight.
“I just want to keep my options open,” Durbridge told VeloNews. “I’ve had no stress this year. I tried in the classics, like the Three Days of De Panne, and a little in the stage races. I’m not doing a grand tour this year, but I’m still just trying different things to see where I fit. I am obviously going well in time trials, and so I just want to keep focusing on that until I get that perfect. After that, who knows.”