Luke Durbridge Previews Circuit Cyclist Sarthe

Tue 2 Apr 2013

Luke Durbridge starts the four day, five stage Circuit Cycliste Sarthe as defending champion. Last year, Durbridge took a surprise victory in France during his neo-pro season. This year, the Australian double national champion lines up confident in his team's ability to repeat the feat with the support of a strong ORICA-GreenEDGE squad.

An afternoon time trial on the double day of racing proved decisive. Durbridge won the time trial to move into the leaders’ jersey, and the team successfully defended his race lead during the final two stages. With two sprint stages ahead of another afternoon time trial on day two, Durbridge expects the race to unfold in a similar fashion this year.

“The smaller one week tours with a time trial seem to be where I’m the best at the moment,” said Durbridge. “We’ll see in a few years if this type of racing remains my strength. For now, I’m confident in my ability to do well at this sort of race.”

In addition to general classification ambitions, the team will also target stage victories. Aidis Kruopis has recovered from illness to give the team a viable option on sprint stages.

“Our main objective is for the team to keep as many of the riders on bunch time ahead of the time trial,” explained Durbridge. “We have five very strong time trialists here, so that’s obviously really good for us. After the time trial, we’ll see how we can go for GC [general classification]. We also have Aidis to look after in the sprints. Looking at our team, it’s clear that we have many cards to play.”

Despite his status as a pre-race favourite, Durbridge maintains he feels relaxed ahead of the race start.

“Last year, I was like a kid in the candy shop at every race,” he said. “I was always keen to have a go and learn as much as possible. I was eager, but it never occurred to me that I could win a race like Circuit Sarthe. I was as surprised as everyone else when I did. This year, I’m a lot more relaxed and calculated with my efforts. I’m also more confident and aware of my strengths.”

A lessor known race than some of the WorldTour races that have featured on the team’s schedule this past month, Circuit Sarthe will nonetheless feature a highly competitive field.

“It’s not WorldTour, but there a lot of WorldTour teams here,” said Durbridge. “I expect it to be a solid race. A lot of guys use this week as part of their preparation to build their form for the Ardennes Classics.”

“It’s also a hard week because each team starts with six riders instead of eight,” Durbridge continued. “It effects the race quite a bit. The field is much smaller, and it’s a lot harder to control the bunch. Luckily, we have six strong guys.”

ORICA-GreenEDGE for Circuit Cyclist Sarthe:

Aidis Kruopis
Cameron Meyer
Luke Durbridge
Michael Hepburn
Sam Bewley
Svein Tuft