Q&A With Luke Durbridge and Julian Dean on Giro d'Italia Stage 17

Wed 22 May 2013

It was another scrappy stage at the Giro d’Italia and another day in the break for ORICA-GreenEDGE. Luke Durbridge flew the flag for the Australian outfit on stage 17, putting himself in a four rider move that dominated the majority of the action. Assistant Sport Director Julian Dean had encouraged Durbridge to make his mark today, and both were pleased that the youngest rider in the Italian Grand Tour rose to the challenge.

Durbridge was joined up the road by Miguel Rubiano (Androni Giocattoli), Maxim Belkov (Katusha) and Gert Dockx (Lotto Belisol). The four riders collaborated to establish an early advantage and made collective decisions to deal with a hostile peloton. The teamwork was not enough to hold the bunch at bay as the escape group fractured over the category four Crosara inside the last 20 kilometres. Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) soloed to victory in Vicenza. Durbridge finished with teammates Svein Tuft and Christian Meier, 8’08 behind Visconti.

Both Dean and Durbridge had a lot to say about the stage they consider an important part of the development of the double Australian National Champion. In a Q&A format below, they describe the day in their own words.

Q: Let’s talk about the break. Why did Luke go up the road today?

Julian: I’m really happy for Durbo today. He did a great job to get into the break. We’ve had a couple of different periods during this Giro where we’ve tried to keep an eye on him and protect him – to save him for the time trial or not put too much pressure on him during his first Grand Tour. Today, I encouraged him to have a bit of a go and get up the road. He’s had several hard days – actually, this Giro has been hard from the beginning. I know he’s suffered. I told him to think about today only. He didn’t need to worry about tomorrow or the day after that. Just think about today; get up the road today. He’s a true professional and a world class rider. He took on the challenge. It’s one thing to say you want to get into the break. It’s another thing to actually do it. He deserves a lot of credit.

Luke: Since the time trial, I’ve been focused on doing the best that I could for my team and trying to get thru the race each day. The time trial was my first objective. My second objective was to get through the second week in good enough condition to finish my first Grand Tour. After yesterday, Julian said: ‘I think you’re going better than you think. Right now you’re just making up numbers, and I’d like to see you be more a part of this race.’ He asked me to give it a crack and get in the break.

Q: How difficult was it to get up the road?

Luke: The pattern lately seems to be that the first hour of racing is really difficult before the break goes, but today was probably the easiest break of the whole Giro. The flag dropped, and I attacked. I followed a move. Before I knew it, there were four of us away. We worked really hard for the next five kilometres. Just like that, the gap was there and we were in the break.

Q: On Twitter, Julian mentioned a stand-off between the peloton and the break. What happened after the initial gap had been established?

Julian: It was a bit of a deadlock. There were only four riders in Luke’s move, and a lot of teams are still looking to do something results-wise, as are we. It wasn’t a sure thing at all during the day, and I think that’s part of the reason it was a somewhat negative race. The peloton held them at the same small gap for a long time.

Luke: It was an interesting move. This was my first WorldTour break that I’ve been in, and I thought I knew what to expect. We’d ride solid for about 20 kilometres and then the peloton would sit up. Normally, they let the gap grow. On a stage like today, which was 215 kilometres long, they should have given us eight minutes or so. We worked really hard for about 30 or 40 minutes, and we still only had two minutes over the bunch. I couldn’t figure out what they were doing. Eventually we got information that made it clear that they didn’t want to give us too much time. They wanted to leave the advantage between two and three minutes.

Q: Was there any resolution to the stand-off?

Luke: We decided to stop riding. There was good communication between the four of us, and we were all in agreement. We stopped to take a pee. We rode at 35 kilometres/hour. The peloton didn’t want us back. They just wanted to keep us at a short distance. The slower we rode, the slower they rode. We rode even slower, and they all but stopped.

Julian: That’s when Christian Meier and Jens Mouris attacked. A lot of guys were really frustrated in the race because of the deadlock between the break and the peloton. There was a negative feeling to the pattern of the break slowing and the peloton slowing. We thought if the break came back, we could restart the attacking process. Four was always a long shot to stay away. If we could reset and get a bigger group away, maybe we’d have a better shot of staying away.

Luke: We knew that people had started attacking because the gap was too close. At that point, we had started working a little bit again. [Sport Director] Lionel [Marie] told us to wait until they gave us the next time check. If it was small, he said we should sit up again. If was a little bigger, we could go full gas. By the time the peloton would receive the information about the new time check, maybe we could open up a big gap.

Q: Did that prove to be a successful strategy?

Luke: Yeah, it worked out okay. We decided to go full gas for ten kilometres. At the next time check, we had 6’30 – which was the biggest gap we had been given all day.

Julian: They really put the hammer down closer to the finish to try to take the surprise out of the peloton. They did everything they could to give themselves a shot at the stage.

Q: How did things play out for the break in the end?

Luke: There were 60 kilometres left in the race by the time we had 6’30 over the bunch and it looked like were we had a chance to go for victory. We all worked really hard leading up the final climb at the end. There were a few little rises before the climb, and that’s when the Belkov dropped off. Then, Dockx fell off pace on the climb. After that, it was just me and Rubiano. I’m in the third week of my first Grand Tour, so I wasn’t too surprised that the legs didn’t want to respond to what the mind wanted to do. I couldn’t hold Rubiano’s wheel when he got out of the saddle. I was swallowed up by the peloton. He was brought back, too, not too long after me.

Q: Are you satisfied with the day?

Julian: Durbo did a great ride. You can’t ask for more than that out of a guy doing his first Grand Tour.

Luke: We gave ourselves every opportunity to go for victory. We didn’t come close in the end. It was always a bit of a long shot anyway. It was good to be a part of the race, and I’m happy that I could follow through with the objective I had been given.

Q: We had a few people on Twitter today asking about the skinsuit. Care to explain?

Julian: There is an aerodynamic advantage to wearing a skinsuit. I think people would be surprised about how many riders are now wearing one piece suits in the peloton. Often the way they’re cut and the pockets in the back make them look like a normal jersey and shorts. It’s purely an aerodynamic advantage.

Luke: Aerodynamics during road racing has become much more important over the last year. It used to be something only discussed around the time trial, but now we all look at it more for road races, too. That’s why you see closed helmets and aero handlebars. Why wear a flappy jersey that slows you down? All jerseys are pretty aero now. Wearing a skinsuit is nearly the same as wearing a road jersey and knicks, but the skinsuit hugs the body a bit better. Road jerseys are very aero, but skinsuits are even more aero, and I find them comfortable – so why not? Plus, it puts me in the right mindset. I put the skinsuit on, and I’m better. You have to change it up and find motivation somewhere after three weeks of racing, right?