Mission Accomplished: Luke Durbridge Podiums in De Panne

Thu 3 Apr 2014

ORICA-GreenEDGE’s Luke Durbridge had previously finished in seventh place twice at VDK-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde. He lined up for the start of the three day, four stage race with the singular goal of improving upon his previous general classification results. Mission accomplished.

Ninth following stage two, Durbridge jumped up to seventh overall, 20” outside the race lead by the end of the morning stage on day three. By the time the afternoon time trial had come to a close, Durbridge had clawed his way onto the overall podium. Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) took the overall win. Durbridge slotted into second overall, 7” behind the Belgian winner and 1” ahead of Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) in third.  

“This is my third year at De Panne, and I’ve finally cracked the podium,” said Durbridge. “I’m in the Quickstep sandwich. I’m pretty happy to say the least. The goal was to jump on the podium. There are a couple little things – if I had just gotten onto that group on stage one….”

“The team rode super for me all week,” Durbridge added. “I couldn’t ask for anything more from them. I’m glad to repay them with the podium. Hopefully next year, I can come back and get on the top step, but for now, I’m just going to enjoy being on the podium.”

The final day of racing at Driedaagse De Panne consists of two stages: a morning road race and an afternoon individual time trial. Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) took his second straight victory as he narrowly beat Andrea Guardini (Astana) across the line. ORICA-GreenEDGE managed to avoid the crashes that factored into the stage 3a finale.

“This is one of the most dangerous stages of the year,” said Durbridge. “It’s just 100 kilometres of flat stick with everyone trying to move up and stay in position for no particular reason. The boys did great work to keep me out of the wind and away from the danger. I just had to stay in the front and not lose any time. That was the tactic.”

The tactic proved successful as Durbridge crossed the line in 31st place safely ensconced in the bunch. He had just over four hours to prepare for his afternoon effort.

Australian National Time Trial Champion Michael Hepburn set the early time in the stage 3b individual time trial, covering the 14.3 kilometres course in 18’19. Hepburn was unseated by Svein Tuft, at which point ORICA-GreenEDGE enjoyed a short-lived run in the top three spots on the stage, with Tuft, Hepburn and Jens Mouris.

Durbridge posted the fastest intermediate split before losing a handful of seconds in the second half of the technical course. He stopped the clock at 17’58.The time was good for fourth on the stage, 7” slower than Polish National Time Trial Champion Maciej Bodnar (Cannondale). Durbridge endured a painfully long seven minute wait to learn his fate on the overall classification.

“I showed some really big improvements here – especially in my bunch racing on the road,” said Durbridge. “I’m looking forward to resting up tonight and gearing up for Flanders over the weekend.”

“I think the stars are maybe sort of aligned a little bit for us,” Durbridge added. “I’m pretty happy with second, and I think the team will be as well. We had some bad luck in Gent Wevelgem and E3. Hopefully this is the start of something good for Sunday and the following weekend in Roubaix.”