While the main talking point that came out of the Tour of Flanders last Sunday was Phillipe Gilbert’s epic solo attack to take the win in front of his home fans, Australian Luke Durbridge of Orica-Scott continued his impressive run of classics form, finishing in 12th place.
Durbridge has had a fabulous early season, finishing second behind Rohan Dennis at the Australian National Time Trial Championships, before being a key part of teammate, Caleb Ewan’s successful lead-out train at the Santos Tour Down Under.
In February, his classics season started off solidly, finishing 45th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, before backing up the next day to finish in 12th place at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.
He then headed to Italy to take part in the hilly classic of Strade Bianche, and put on an incredible display, finishing sixth on a parcours which does not suit his riding style. With the responsibility of riding on the same team at Grand Tours as climbing sensations like the Yates brothers and Esteban Chaves, it has forced many of the Orica-Scott classics riders to become better on the climbs, and this has benefited Durbridge immensely.
After riding Tirreno-Adratico, Durbridge then headed back to Belgium and has since finished fourth at both Dwars Door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke.
He then finished second behind Gilbert on the opening stage of The Three Days of De Panne, before winning the final stage time trial to secure an 11th place finish in the general classification.
This set of early season results, specifically the last month of racing set the West Australian up for a good performance at Flanders on Sunday, and for this Sunday’s Paris Roubaix.
Roubiax should suit Durbridge and his Orica-Scott teammates better than the Flanders course.
The team comes into the race with the returning Pairs-Roubaix champion Matthew Hayman, who was quiet at Flanders, with the parcour not suiting him, and with the hopeful return of classics specialist Jens Keukeleire, who had to withdraw from Flanders on couple of days before due to illness.
In last year’s race, Durbridge punctured while in the leading group that contested the final 25 kilometres of the race, and on current form, should finish inside the top 15, which would be slightly better than the 18th place he achieved last year.
He will go into the race as one of the team’s protected riders, and have a real chance of competing for a podium place if the race is kind to him.