Durbridge coming of age in the classics after a strong ride in E3 HarelbekeFri 24 Mar 2017
Former Australian national time trial champion Luke Durbridge showed his classics credentials again today with another strong performance in Belgium at E3 Harelbeke, claiming his second fourth place of the week.
The 25-year-old ORICA-SCOTT rider read the race well and went with the key attack of Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) after the Taaienberg before losing contact on the Oude Kwaremont and commencing a determined chase behind three leaders.
Eventually it was Greg Van Avermaet (BMC-Racing) who took the win ahead of Gilbert and Oliver Naesen (AG2R) with Durbridge the best of the rest and outsprinting Lukas Postlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) to take fourth place.
“It was a great effort again from Luke today,” said Sport director Laurenzo Lapage. “Like in Dwars door Vlaanderen the other day he made the right moves at the key moments and was unfortunate to lose contact on the kwaremont before chasing hard against the bunch for the last 20kilometres.”
“He is giving us great hope for the future and for the next few weeks, with both Flanders and Roubaix coming up and his confidence levels rising all the time alongside his condition, it’s really fantastic to see the progression.
“I’m sure we haven’t seen the best of Luke yet, today was a battle from the start, strong winds and the fifteen climbs in quick succession, made for a nervous peloton and some edgy racing.
“You don’t get much time to recover in this race and if you want to do well it’s important to be present at the front and we made sure that’s where we were today.”
How it happened:
A beautiful spring morning welcomed the riders to the start line for a fast first hour of racing, with 44kilometres covered and the peloton still together despite a few fruitless breakaway attempts.
Finally a group of six riders went clear and with 90kilometres remaining had over four minutes on the peloton.
Mitch Docker got tangled up in a small crash around the 80kilometres to go mark as the tension started to mount within the peloton, but was thankfully ok continue the race.
The short, sharp climbs were coming thick and fast as the breakaway continued to work well together into the final third with yet more crashes and mechanicals occurring in the nervous peloton.
The tension continued to grow as the race heated up, drawing ever nearer to the business end as Tom Boonen (Quick-Step Floors) picked up the pace on the iconic Taaienberg with 70kilometres to go.
Boonen’s move was a sign of things to come with teammate Gilbert the next to shake it up with a blistering attack on the Eikenberg taking eight riders with him and overcoming the earlier breakaway.
Durbridge was up there for ORICA-SCOTT and read the intentions of Gilbert perfectly, twelve riders now formed the leading group ahead of a reduced peloton some 50seconds behind.
A sharp acceleration from Naesen on the Oude Kwaremont split the front group with only Gilbert and Van Avermaet the only two riders able to follow.
Durbridge was chasing hard, but against the rotating trio of Belgians up the road the determined Australian was fighting a losing battle.
In the end it was Van Avermaet who took the race win from the three up sprint with Durbridge finishing strongly to take fourth.
E3 Harelbeke results:
1. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC-Racing) 04:48:17
2. Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) ST
3. Oliver Naesen (AG2R) ST
4. Luke Durbridge (ORICA-SCOTT) 00:00:40
Photos courtesy of ©TDWsport.com