Top 20 for Durbridge as ORICA-GreenEDGE continue to fine tune at Strade Bianche

Sat 7 Mar 2015

West Australian Luke Durbridge was ORICA-GreenEDGE’s top finisher in 17th position at the team’s first appearance at Strade Bianche today.

In a race famous for its gravel sectors, affectionately known as the ‘white roads’, nasty winds added to the already challenging array of elements across the 200km course.

As promised, it was a battle of survival. Eventually Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step) prevailed.

“Realistically we knew we were coming here as the first race of the European season for a lot of the guys and we really wanted them to have a hard hit out before Tirreno and Paris-Nice,” sport director Neil Stephens said.

“I said to the guys, the best way to have a hard hit out is to be there into the final and try to do something in the final.

“I was hoping to have one rider left in the peloton in the final, we had two. I think we can be satisfied with the day.”

After an early breakaway of eight riders, the race was back together with 50km to go, and in a sense just about to begin.

As the riders reached the longest sector of gravel Stybar, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff – Saxo) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) initiated a threatening move that proved crucial in shaping the race.

In a performance above his years, ORICA-GreenEDGE neo-pro Magnus Cort made the initial split in the select group but was unable to hold on.

Despite a spirited attempt by Cort and Mat Hayman at the head of the peloton, the outfit had little support in bringing the race back together as the attacks continued out front.

“He certainly gave it everything he could,” Stephens said of Cort.

“Whenever you try to get in a move like that, it helps the teammates behind you and once he got shelled from that group, he wasn’t content with just sitting in the bunch, he got on the front and rode with Mat Hayman.”

Back from injury in his first race for the season, 2014 Liege-Bastogne-Liege champion Simon Gerrans withdrew from the race shortly after a minor crash at 120km.  

At time of publish, the 34-year-old was undergoing precautionary x-rays. Further update will be provided when information is available.