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March 29, 2017

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Durbridge aims for more than time trial glory

GRENOBLE, France -- Australian Luke Durbridge may be a time trial specialist but he believes he can still enjoy Tour de France success away from the race against the clock.

The 23-year-old won back-to-back national time trial titles in 2012 and 2013, the year he did the double by also winning the national road race.

Although racing his first Tour de France, Durbridge has acquitted himself well with his Aussie Orica GreenEDGE team.

He may be more than two hours behind race leader Vincenzo Nibali and outside the top 100 but he's enjoying the ride.

"This is definitely a much bigger circus than I've ever been a part of," he told AFP.

"It's my first Tour de France and I'm enjoying the experience. It's much more stressful and faster than any other race I've done.

"I've still got a while to go but I hope to continue the way I'm going and get to Paris."

Durbridge admitted he will be targeting the 54km individual time trial on the penultimate stage but he said he would not limit himself to that one goal.

"I'm here to take every opportunity, I'm not just here to be a passenger in the peloton all the way to Paris," he said.

"Obviously (I'm targeting) the time trial the second last day but that's quite far away.

"I'm also targeting a couple of opportunities I want to take to do a good result for myself."

Gerrans Setback

So far the Tour has been a disappointing one for Orica who have not even come close to a stage win.

But Durbridge says their hopes were tempered by team leader Simon Gerrans crashing in the sprint finish at the end of the opening stage in Harrogate, northern England.

"We had a little bad luck with Simon crashing early on and Mathew Haymon crashing out out at the start.

"Last year for us was such a great success at the Tour de France. A lot of people think it just makes or breaks their season but we've had an unbelievable season so far if you look at all the results we've had.

"The other week we had almost one week with a victory in every race through that whole week.

"For sure the Tour de France is a make or break race for us. We feel a little bit of pressure and we want to try and perform but we're lucky enough that our team is supportive enough that you can only do what you can do.

"We give it 100 percent every day and if it doesn't come off, it doesn't come off, that's just the way it is."

Durbridge rolled in almost 40 minutes behind winner Nibali on the first Alpine mountain stage on Friday but said he wasn't daunted by the Tour's summit finishes.

"I did the Giro d'Italia the last two years and some of those stages are probably even harder than here, but it's just the pace they ride (at the Tour).

"I'm not afraid of the mountains but it might be just one of those cases of getting through and see how you might come out the other side."

Nibali has so far dominated the Tour right from the start, particularly since his main rivals Chris Froome, the reigning champion, and two-time former winner Alberto Contador crashed out with broken bones.

But Durbridge said it would be unwise to assume the race for the yellow jersey is all but over.

"If you look at how the Tour's gone so far you can't count your chickens before they've hatched.

"Obviously Nibali is red hot favorite with Contador crashing out and Froome crashing out, but with how sketchy the race has been and how dangerous and nervous the peloton has been, touch wood all it takes is a clip of the wheels and your Tour is over."

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