• Luke Durbridge in action in the National Championships Elite Men Time Trial (Con Chronis/AusCycling)Source: Con Chronis/AusCycling
Luke Durbridge's participation in the elite men's nationals time trial was a close-run thing, on and off the bike, as he was nearly unable to compete with the coronavirus restrictions with Western Australia coming into effect.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

3 Feb 2021 - 11:11 PM 

After producing a top ride to win the Santos Festival of Cycling, Durbridge returned to Perth to complete his preparation for the time trial at the national championships. All was going well until the announcement of a case within Perth with connections to many locations in the city, sending the city and surrounding areas into lockdown and other states scrambling to institute travel restrictions on Western Australian residents to prevent the spread.

Durbridge's participation was very much up in the air right up until the morning of the time trial, with late confirmation only coming with the return of a negative COVID test result by the four-time champion.

“It was stressful, it’s not what you expect, but in these times with COVID it’s what you have to do," said Durbridge. "I think we acted quite quickly and applied for an exemption. We were lucky enough that they granted me one with the appropriate processes.

"Last night arriving in Ballarat at midnight, got the all clear at nine o’clock this morning, then got out on the road. It has been a stressful 48, 24 hours.

"I’d like to thank all the support people, Gerry Ryan and the team, they went into bat for me to get me here. I wanted to repay them with a good performance, obviously second was all I had today. Hopefully get a bit more rest for Sunday and do better."

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The 20-year-old came into the time trial with a lot of hype around his performance at the Santos Festival of Cycling, but few were expecting him to dominate his competition in such stellar fashion, finishing over a minute ahead of four-time champion Luke Durbridge (Team BikeExchange) and Kell O'Brien (Inform TMX MAKE).
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Durbridge didn't look to blame the significant loss, over a minute on the road to Plapp on the lack of sleep and stress ahead of the event, but it certainly didn't help the 29-year-old prepare for the race of truth.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed," said Durbridge. "You come to nationals and after the last couple of years I would have liked to have won. I’m not disappointed with my ride. Obviously, there are areas for improvement.

"The numbers were a bit down on last year and I was a bit flat out there today. I gave it my best performance, that’s all you can hope for. It was touch and go whether I could get here anyway, I was just happy to be honest.”

The West Australian had words of praise for the 20-year-old winner, Luke Plapp, as well as his track and road teammate Kell O'Brien, 22.

"It was a really impressive ride by Luke Plapp," said Durbridge. "I expect we'll see much more of him in the future. I just want to say congrats to Plapp and Kell, it's impressive to see the young guys and juniors coming through. I remember my first title, I was 20 years old as well, so well done to them." 

“I’ll be back to the drawing board, it won’t be the last you see of me.”

Durbridge was calm and far from being in a bad mood after the race, and looked ahead to the racing in the coming days as a chance to get square.

“I wasn’t bad today, second in a national championships isn’t bad," said Durbridge, "but I’d like to have a bit more recovery, get a good hit out in the criterium and I think we’re motivated, especially after losing the title today."

When Durbridge was asked what his plans were for the road race, he answered in his typical style.

"I haven’t missed the break in many years. I’m sure I’ll be there."

SBS brings you the Australian National Road Championships
SBS Cycling Central will bring you the major action from the 2021 Federation University Australia Road Cycling National Championships, with a combination of livestreaming and live television coverage of the elite road races on Sunday.