In an upset ride, Michael Hepburn has won his first national time trial title on the 45km course around Burrumbeet by 11 seconds.
Hepburn was the quickest on the second half of the course after being 30 seconds off Durbridge’s at the time check and finished the race strongly to record the win. The early pace was set by Tim Roe, who is attempting to make his way back to the WorldTour, was the first to crack the one hour barrier. Ben Dyball was the second rider to go under the magical one hour but his time was overshadowed by news that Rohan Dennis had crashed out. Dennis was blown off his bike by one of the strong gusts of wind that peppered the course all day.
At the two kilometres to go time check it was Hepburn setting the quickest pace and he came in with a time of 56:25, almost two and half minutes better than the hot seat occupier Dyball. The race was going to be decided between the GreenEdge trio of Hepburn, Durbridge and U23 time trial champion Damien Howson. Durbridge had set the course alight with the fastest time to the 22km time check mark but faded in the final kilometres to record the second fastest time with 2km to go and he almost caught Howson in the final 100 meters. “Going into the race I was hoping for a good ride and hopefully a podium result. In the couple of days since the bay crits I was a little bit tired and off the bike,” Hepburn said of his pre-race preperation.
“This morning on the ergo I could feel the legs were getting better. I had one time check out there and I was down 30 seconds on Durbridge, I know that he can go out quite strong so I was trying to keep on the power.” A sign of Hepburn’s prowess was that he passed “eight or nine” riders on the course which was added motivation to keep the pedals turning over. “The first one [I passed] was Will Clarke, he was my one minute man, I know he’d be going a good race and I think I passed him after 20kms,” he said. Having excelled on the track winning world titles and Olympic medals, Hepburn is wholly focused on the road in 2014 and his win was vindication of his decision. “It’s pretty special as it hasn’t been the easiest two years trying to fit in the track stuff after I’ve been through some tough times. So to start the year like this, in the first year I’m focusing on the road, is pretty huge for me.”
For Durbridge, the opportunity to record three successive wins painfully eluded him although the loss has only made him hungry to win back the title. “I wanted to win, but it was not to be,” Durbridge said. “All I can do now is to savour the moment of how much this hurts and move on.” Fresh off a stage three victory at the Bay Cycling Classic in Victoria on Saturday, Durbridge dismissed any rumours that poor health which had caused him to pull out of stage four on Sunday had anything to do with his failed bid to retain his national title. “I can’t really question anything as I was in good form,” the 22-year-old told Cyclingnews immediately after the race. “It was a fast course and I thought I gave it everything. I thought my everything was gonna be enough to win today but obviously it wasn’t. I have to go back and see where I went wrong and where I can improve. “I went as hard as I could but I can’t take anything away from Michael has he is a great time triallist and it showed.” Durbridge now sets his sights on the defence of his 2013 Australian Road Race Championship on Sunday against one of the strongest fields ever seen for the green and gold jersey.
1 Michael Hepburn (QLD) 0:56:25
2 Luke Durbridge (WA) 0:00:11
3 Damien Howson (SA) 0:02:06
4 Ben Dyball (NSW) 0:02:35
5 William Clarke (TAS) 0:02:51
6 Timothy Roe (SA) 0:03:11
7 Marc Williams (ACT) 0:04:01
8 Matthew Clark (VIC) 0:04:17
9 Jack Anderson (QLD) 0:04:28
10 Jacob Kauffmann (NSW) 0:04:40