Luke Durbridge won the overall at the Tour de Poitou Charentres after moving into the leader’s jersey on the stage four individual time trial. The neo-pro has won four individual time trials, two of which have set the scene for general classification victories, this season.
“It was a super, super hard stage today,” said Durbridge. “Winning after a stage like that makes me feel like the team really deserves this win. It’s a huge relief, and I’m happy to repay my teammates for all the hard work they did this week.”
ORICA-GreenEDGE dominated the French stage race from start to finish with Aidis Kruopis winning the stage one sprint finish. Kruopis followed up his first victory with a second win on stage two. The leader’s jersey moved from Kruopis to Durbridge on the third day of racing, a double day with a short road stage in the morning and an afternoon time trial. The team successfully defended Kruopis’ lead in the morning. Durbridge time trialed into the leader’s jersey later that afternoon.
The final stage of racing provided fast, furious action from kilometer zero. The first hour, covered in a blistering pace of 49 kilometers/hour, saw the peloton split into two distinct groups. Durbridge, surrounded by three teammates, made the front group of 60 riders. Leigh Howard, Christian Meier and Jens Keukeleire ensured Durbridge’s safety in the hectic kilometers that followed.
“We started the stage with the idea that we would control during the first 100 kilometers,” noted Durbridge. “From there, we thought we’d get to the circuits and have a few guys left to help me out near the end of the race. That is not how the race unfolded at all. Straight out of the blocks, FDJ lit it up, and almost immediately they had split the whole peloton in half.”
“In a way, their tactics worked to our advantage,” continued Durbridge. “With their split we still had four riders in the front group, and we were able to sit on the back of FDJ and conserve energy slightly before we got to the circuits. Everyone was in a world of hurt with the pace FDJ set.”
In the second to last lap, Durbridge had an untimely mechanical.
“My big chain ring stopped working properly and I had to get a bike change,” Durbridge explained. “The whole team pulled over to wait for me, and they got me back on. The final was super hectic, but I never panicked. I knew Christian, Leigh and Jens would take care of me, and I had every confidence that if I stayed together with them, they were strong enough to get me out of any trouble I might get myself into.”
Feeling strong at the finish, Durbridge contested the sprint, crossing the line in fourth.
“With three kilometers left to race, I still had pretty good legs, and I knew there was no chance the field would drop me,” said Durbridge. “I put myself into a good position with the sprint. I ran fourth on the stage and saw that the guys in front of me were not on the general classification. I knew then that we had done it.”
In addition to three stage wins and the overall jersey, ORICA-GreenEDGE leaves the Tour de Poitou Charentres with Durbridge’s best young rider’s jersey and Kruopis’ points classification jersey.
“We came into this week with high expectations,” admitted Durbridge. “[Sports Director] Lionel [Marie] gave us our objectives, and we accepted them and took them on board. As a team, we all realized what we needed to do and we rose to the challenge. Lionel set a high bar, and we not only reached that bar, we exceeded it. It’s been a fantastic week for the team, and hopefully we continue like this for the last few months of the season.”