In His Own Words: Luke Durbridge Previews Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde

Tue 26 Mar 2013

ORICA-GreenEDGE raced competitively at Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde last year. At the conclusion of the three day, four stage race, both Svein Tuft and Luke Durbridge had finished in the top ten overall with Tuft best-placed in fourth. Although Tuft will sit out this year’s ‘De Panne’ due to illness, the team hopes to move up the overall standings in their second appearance and knock out a stage win or two in the process.

The Belgian stage race serves as preparation for Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Although not a World Tour race, Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde will feature stiff competition from those looking to hone their form ahead of Sunday’s showdown. In his own words, Luke Durbridge previews the race for you here.

This is a very tough tour. It’s not a WorldTour event, so for those that don’t follow cycling closely, it might not be on their radar but within the peloton, De Panne is known as a brutal race. It’s preparation for upcoming classics. A lot of the guys here are the guys who raced Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Harelbeke and Gent Wevelgem this past week. Chava [Sylvain Chavanel] won the overall last year, which says a lot about to who this race is best suited.

The European spring weather has been fairly brutal. I haven’t dared looked at the weather forecast yet but know that we don’t expect temperatures above 3°C for any of three days of racing. I suspect this year’s race will be a lot windier than last year. Some of our stages start on the coast, so the wind could definitely play a role. We’ll take it day by day. Everybody has to deal with the same conditions.

It’s a bit of a shame that Svein is sick after finishing top five here last year. The general classification hadn’t necessarily been our objective, but we had the opportunity to go for it, so we did. This year, it’s no secret that we’re focused on the overall. The final stage time trial suits us. We’ll hope to start the last stage with as many riders in contention as possible. I’m not the only one who can ride a good TT – there’s also Jens Mouris, Tomas Vaitkus and Michael Hepburn. All four of us are capable of a good result.

Leigh Howard has shown that he has some handy form at the moment to finish with the peloton in Dwars door Vlaanderen and Gent Wevelgem. We’ll set up the first two stages for him.  Aidis Kruopis might be another rider for the sprints, but he was sick last week, and I don’t know if his form has come up since his illness. We’ll assess during the first stage, but it’s nice to have two potential cards to play.

Personally, I will look to stay with the front group for as long as possible and keep any time lost to a minimum. I would expect a group of 40 or 50 strong to finish together on the road stages, and it requires a big effort to ensure that I’m with that group every day. I rode into seventh last year on the overall, and I want to put myself higher up this year.

I’m still quite new to this style of racing, so while other teams might be on the hunt for the time bonuses on offer during the road stage, I’ll look to conserve energy as much as possible. My teammates will provide support in terms of positioning. That’s not to say I’m going into this race thinking that as long as I win the time trial that’s all I need to do for a good overall. I know I need to keep myself up there, follow the right wheels and focus on the front. That said, the time trial is my strength, and I hope I can use it to improve my overall position after the three road stages. 

The race ends with a double day of racing. There is a short morning road stage followed by an afternoon time trial. It’s impossible to stay fresh for the time trial. The objective is to conserve whenever I can in the morning, eat well all day and hope for the easiest as possible morning session. I won’t think about the time trial until the time trial rolls around.

ORICA-GreenEDGE for Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde:

Aidis Kruopis
Baden Cooke
Jens Mouris
Leigh Howard
Luke Durbridge
Michael Hepburn
Stuart O’Grady
Tomas Vaitkus