Cycling: Time trial champ faces pressure

PHOTOS: Day 1 - Cycling Australia Road National Championships

Luke Durbridge has put the defence of his national men’s elite road cycling time trial championship on a higher plain than his breakthrough title last year.

“This is special for me,” he said.

Durbridge said this year’s event had evoked different feelings for him.

As a youngster competing in the men’s elite field for the first time last year, the expectations were not as high as he took on past champions Cameron Meyer and Michael Rogers – despite having been the under-23 champion in 2011.

This time as the reigning champion, the pressure was on him to go back-to-back in the Mars Cycling Australian Road National Championships.

Durbridge said while it would not have been a failure to not win gold again, it would have been disappointing.

Durbridge, 21, overcame a quick time set by new Orica GreenEDGE teammate Michael Matthews early, and then a late surge by last year’s under-23 time trial champion Rohan Dennis to secure the title.

Durbridge set a hot pace from the outset.

The ACT’s Matthews set the event alight when he crossed the line at the end of 37 kilometres in 44 minutes, 11.85 seconds – more than three minutes faster than the previous best time for the day.

Tasmanian Richie Porte made a mid-race challenge too before fading to finish fourth, but it ultimately went down to a head-to-head battle between Durbridge and Dennis.

Dennis grabbed some time back late, but the Western Australian had the last say in 43:26.71 (averaging 51.1kmh).

Dennis was 21.2 seconds down, with Matthews getting bronze with 23.9 seconds back.

Durbridge said it had been important to harness the pressure. He praised the new course, which, unlike the past few years, was a closed circuit.

“It was great to have full road closure.”

Durbridge makes his next appearance in the championships in Sunday’s road race at Buninyong.

Ballarat’s Jay Bourke finished 26th in the 40-strong field in 49:13.50.

Cycling Australia race director Sean Muir was delighted with all aspects of the opening day of the championships, with the crowd much bigger than those at past time trials.

The championships continue with criteriums in Sturt Street tonight.