The Roar
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Luke Durbridge Tour Diary: England to the cobbles

Stage 1 of the 2016 Vuelta a Espana is a team time trial, where Australia's Orica-Bike Exchange are in with a shot at victory. (AP Photo/Gian Mattia D'Alberto)
Expert
9th July, 2014
4

Riding my first Tour de France has been an amazing experience so far. I have just finished taking on the cobblestones of Stage 5 and am looking forward to tackling the second week of the race.

Starting in England provided an unbelievable few days. The crowds in Yorkshire and London were incredible and provided a special experience for the riders.

Unfortunately for the team front, we had a big crash on the first stage when Simon Gerrans went down after a tangle with Mark Cavendish. That cost us the chance to potentially reach the podium on that stage.

My personal experience though was certainly highlighted by the crowds; the roadsides they were lined so heavily, often three or four deep for kilometre after kilometre.

Finishing in London, riding in past Buckingham Palace was a special experience. Once I had done my job on that stage I just sat up and tried to savour the moment for the last few kilometres.

Despite the highlights, England was actually quite dangerous racing. When you are humming along at 60 to 70 kilometres per hour, you had to be very careful to sure you don’t crash into any overexcited spectators.

On the climbs I had to track stand and pretty much stop just to try and stay upright. That was one of the things that I will never forget.

From there we caught a plane to France. Stage 4 was supposed to be a flat, sprint stage but it ended up being another dangerous stage due to the very windy conditions. I think we ended up finishing 19 per cent ahead of what they had estimated the bunch to finish in. So it was one of those days that never stopped.

That has to be one of the things I am starting to realise riding the Tour de France, the peloton here race three to four kilometres per hour faster than any other bunch I have been in.

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This is because it is such a big race, everyone is so well prepared and in great condition. As well, everyone has something to achieve. You have the sprinters, guys aiming for GC, the opportunist teams like ours. Everyone has something to gain and something to achieve. There is also no doubt that the Tour can really make or break your season.

Then came Stage 5, which was probably the most epic day I have ever had on a bike. It was only three and a half hours long but we had to take on the famous cobblestone roads that border Belgium and France in the wet.

The thing with riding wet cobblestones is that you can’t touch your brakes. If you touch your brakes you are on your arse!

From the word go, if you touched your brakes it was like ice skating. There was crashes, people everywhere, cars, mud. You finished the race looking like you had just had a big mud wrestle.

Thankfully, myself and the rest of the Orica-GreenEDGE riders were all lucky enough to stay upright.

It was a stage that I enjoyed immensely to finish, but I didn’t enjoy it too much while we were out there!

The team also had a great result with Jens Keukeleire finishing sixth. He is a local to the area so that was a big moment for him and it made me and the rest of the team very happy to see him achieve that result.

So currently I am five stages down in the Tour de France and looking forward to trying to get into some breakaways in the second week. For the team, we have some good opportunities to push for results for Simon Gerrans. The objective for Orica-GreenEDGE is really to take every opportunity that we can.

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We have a few options up our sleeve and a few cards to play moving forward, so we are certainly hopeful of throwing our hands in the air at the end of a stage soon.