Turbo set to scorch Ballarat’s roads

Sean Lee Columnist

By Sean Lee, Sean Lee is a Roar Expert

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    Australia's GreenEdge Cycling Teams' Luke Durbridge, Stuart O'Grady and Robbie McEwen (AAP Image/Benjamin Macmahon)

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    Luke Durbridge is a brute on the bike. At the recently completed Jayco Bay Classic he seemed to tower over the other riders. Even when buried within the bunch, his big frame was evident.

    When he rose from the saddle and stamped on the pedals with those big Fabian Cancellara like legs, his bike flexed and rocked beneath him like a fragile toy.

    His stage two victory on the notoriously painful Portarlington circuit was a powerhouse performance and a great way to start the year.

    Now though, his focus turns to the Australian nationals, and Turbo, as he is affectionately known, is all set to scorch the roads of Ballarat as he seeks to defend his individual time trial title.

    He goes in as the hot favourite and a quick look at his 2012 palmarès shows why. It contains but one hiccup.

    By his own admission, Durbridge had a disappointing world championship. In stark contrast to his performances at under-23 level when he finished second in the individual time trial in 2010 and as champion in 2011, Turbo had to be content with 21st place at elite level in 2012.

    But the disappointment would not have lingered long. With the dust settled and the post mortems complete, Durbridge would have looked back on his neo-pro year with a certain level of satisfaction.

    General classification victories at the Circuit de la Sarthe and the Tour du Poitou Charentes were built on the back of comprehensive individual time trial performances and a handful of victories in the race against the clock at other events, including the Criterium du Dauphine where he outpointed even Bradley Wiggins in the Grenoble prologue, clearly indicate his star is rising.

    And now he is looking at starting his 2013 season the same way as he started 2012 – by claiming the individual time trial at the national championships.

    This year’s event is to be held on a new course centred around Ballarat’s Lake Wendouree. Although the non-technical and almost pancake flat route lacks some imagination, it may still throw up the odd challenge to the unwary time trialist.

    Basically,the course can be split into two parts – the six-kilometre loop of Lake Wendouree and the straight but exposed out and back stretch along the Avenue of Honour.

    Wind will almost certainly play its part whether it’s whipping off the lake or across the open paddocks further out of town, and the slight upward gradient on the run back into town should not be underestimated.

    Those who have gone into the red too early will find the long drag taking its toll, and if accompanied by a head wind, precious seconds could be lost.

    While Durbridge is favoured to win, he faces stiff opposition from a talented field. Richie Porte, Jack Bobridge and Rohan Dennis appear to be his biggest threats, while Michael Matthews and Nathan Haas will also be pushing hard.

    Bobridge especially, will be hoping for a change in fortunes. After winning the national road title in 2011, he came to grief in the 2012 individual time trial after being blown from his bike by a passing truck. Michael Rogers was also hindered by traffic that day and race organisers have finally realised that to run a fair and proper (and safe) championships, all roads must be fully closed.

    The only big name missing from the individual time trial start list is Cameron Meyer. Second in last year’s event, the highly rated Orica-GreenEdge rider will instead try his luck in the criterium on Thursday evening before turning his focus to the road race on Sunday.

    The Roar’s own Jonathan Lovelock will also be competing.

    For those who are interested, I will be twittering from within the Media area.

    Follow Sean at www.twitter.com/downundrcycling

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    The Crowd Says (8)

    • Roar Guru

      January 9th 2013 @ 10:02am
      Bones506 said | January 9th 2013 @ 10:02am | ! Report

      He crashed yesterday and whilst he is okay he did come off and take some ‘paint’ with him. that may have an impact on his performance.

      Keep an Eye out for David Kelly who is the dark horse. He took out 3rd in the TT at Sun Tour.

    • Columnist

      January 9th 2013 @ 12:29pm
      Lee Rodgers said | January 9th 2013 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

      Amazing to read that the national time trials were run on roads with traffic until recently! You really don;t need the additional challenge of passing traffic when you’re going all out.

      Would you rate Durbridge as the most naturally talented of the ‘young guns’? Or Bobridge, who announced his arrival so spectacularly in early 2011 when he broke Chris Boardman’s long-standing 4km pursuit record? Or Cameron Meyer?

      All three have that track pedigree, but seems like Durbridge is making the most successful progression on the road.

      • Columnist

        January 9th 2013 @ 12:56pm
        Tim Renowden said | January 9th 2013 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

        I think Durbridge benefited last year from pullng the pin on his track career, which let him focus on the road time trials. Bobridge seemed to have a foot in each camp trying to win Olympic gold in the team pursuit and establish himself on the road, and didn’t seem to cope that well with all the expectation (hence getting into some trouble off the bike). Be interesting to see how Bobridge goes this year in a new team, a bit less of the spotlight outside the OGE bubble, and perhaps focusing on the road.

      • Roar Guru

        January 9th 2013 @ 1:21pm
        Bones506 said | January 9th 2013 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

        Cam Meyer for me. His efforts at the World Track Champs last year was phenomenal and since then he has focused solely on the road.

      • January 9th 2013 @ 2:09pm
        Aaron said | January 9th 2013 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

        like sean mentioned, durbridge may (hopefully) turn into a powerful cancellara-like rider, unstoppable on his day in the TTs, and then once he loses his raw power with age focuses winning roubaix, flanders or even milano san remo. but we’ll see

      • Columnist

        January 10th 2013 @ 1:43am
        Sean Lee said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:43am | ! Report

        We are yet to see the best of Meyer, but I think Durbridge is as talented as any of the young guns. Bobridge seems to have lost his way for the moment and his performance today must be a worry. Four and a half minutes behind Durbo and 18th spot would not be the way he’d want to open the season in his new team colours. I really hope Bobridge can turn it around. I still remember his audacious attacks in the TDU a few years back when no one had heard of him. Even cough cough that Texan bloke was impressed.

    • Roar Guru

      January 9th 2013 @ 4:02pm
      Bones506 said | January 9th 2013 @ 4:02pm | ! Report

      Durbo takes gold in ITT with average speed of 51.1kmhr over the ~38km course.

      Rohan Dennis 2nd (Garmin-Sharp)

      Michael Mathews 3rd (Orica)

    • Columnist

      January 10th 2013 @ 1:00pm
      Lee Rodgers said | January 10th 2013 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

      that is some speed…

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