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BUNINYONG, Australia (CT) – For the second year in a row Luke Durbridge (Mitchelton-Scott) has beaten reigning world champion Rohan Dennis (Ineos) to win the Australian time trial title.
Dennis started the race as the unbackable favourite, a little over three months after winning the ITT world title in Yorkshire. He beat 13th-placed Durbridge by over three minutes that day. But on Wednesday Durbridge proved the stronger over a new 37.5 km course that started and finished inside Federation University near Ballarat.
Less than a third of a second separated the pair after the first of two laps of the technical, undulating course, with Durbridge just ahead of Dennis.
“I knew it was equal [at halfway] so I knew if I just didn’t implode, it was gonna be close,” Durbridge said. “And then I knew I sort of had him by the turn[around]. I’d put a little bit of time into him, 8-10 seconds, and after that it was fine.”
By the finish Durbridge had extended his advantage to 17.5 seconds. Chris Harper, in his first race for WorldTour outfit Jumbo-Visma, was third, 1:52 behind Durbridge.
For the newly crowned Australian champion, the hope is that beating the world champion puts him in the conversation for the Tokyo Olympics time trial later this year.
“Rohan makes me pick my level up,” Durbridge said. “I think with the Olympics this year … Rohan’s world champion and we have two spots. I’d just really like to see that Australia can respect those two spots because I think Rohan and I both deserve them. So hopefully the selectors see it that way and we can go to the Olympics.
“That’s why I’m working hard and I’d love to represent my country because I’m a proud Aussie.”
Dennis, meanwhile, was happy with the ride he put in, even if the result wasn’t what he was looking for.
“Look, I did everything I went out there to do,” Dennis said. “I held the power I knew I could hold and in the end I was just beaten by a better guy. Durbo was absolutely flying. To be honest, I think with that ride he probably would have been at least — at least, top five at Worlds in Yorkshire. That hurt more than Yorkshire for me to be honest.”
While victory was clearly the goal for Dennis, he can see the bigger-picture benefit to Durbridge’s victory.
“In a way it would have been a shame that I won, just for the Australian champion’s jersey not being worn throughout the year,” Dennis said. “So in that sense, I’m happy, a bit like last year as well — at least it gets shown off to the public in Europe as well.”
Durbridge now has four elite Australian time trial titles to his name: 2012, 2013, 2019 and 2020. He also won the national road race title in 2013. He’ll go into Sunday’s road race as one of the riders to watch and has vowed to be as aggressive as ever.
“You know me, I’m always motivated to get in that breakaway and get up the road and show everyone my caked-in-salt jersey,” he said. “But we’ve got a good team here and last year my brother-in-law [Michael Freiberg] got the best of our team so hopefully we can get it [the green-and-gold jersey] back in the team and take it over to Europe.”
Earlier in the evening Luke Plapp (InForm TM Insight Make) took out the U23 men’s time trial title, a year after finishing second in the same event. Plapp finished 14.6 seconds clear of fellow team pursuit rider Kelland O’Brien while Plapp’s teammate Carter Turnbull was third at 53.9 seconds.
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