Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) had a reality-check season. The second-year Aussie professional, after winning eight times in 2012, struggled while learning lessons for next year.
"This year has been tough as times," the 22-year-old told Cycling Weekly. "I thought that when you step into the pro circuit and have that many pro victories that it'd just go like that for ever!"
The tall, six foot one inch national champion spoke freely head of a Tour of Beijing stage last week. It was a good as place as any to reflect on a season that took him from took him from the Tour of Langkawi to Beijing, and started off with a bang, a double time trial and road race win at nationals.
The season failed to compare to his debut, though. Last year, Durbridge beat Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and the rest of the field in the opening prologue of the Critérium du Dauphiné. He won the overall victories in the Circuit de la Sarthe and Tour du Poitou Charentes thanks to time trial wins in both stage races.
"For sure I have regrets," he continued. "My first year was pretty big; I had eight or nine wins. I hit the ground running."
If not wins, Durbridge at least gained experience this year.
"I started with the nationals; I had two wins and I thought it was just going to keep coming, but I struggled through the classics and the Giro. I hurt my back after the classics, I had to have a month off. I was just banging my head against the wall a little bit."
Durbridge - wearing the white jersey with the green and yellow bands of Australian champion - started for the first time in Paris-Roubaix and in a Grand Tour, the Giro d'Italia. Last month, he helped push Orica to a silver medal in the World Championships, just 0.81 seconds behind Omega Pharma in the team time trial.
Durbridge believes his body was shutting down after intensive 2012 and 2013 seasons. He said the back pain was a signal that he was mentally fatigued.
"It's been a big learning year for me," he continued. "I've almost doubled the amount of racing days from the year before, I did my first Grand Tour."
He plans on analysing his season. He wants to build on his first two years, to aim at time trials and classics for 2014.
"I want to keep focusing on time trials and do as well as I can in those. I'll try to go as far as I can in Roubaix, in the Belgian classics and semi-classics like Waregem [Dwars door Vlaanderen]. The Giro starts with a team time trial and I'll probably be going there to do that. I wouldn't count myself out for the Tour de France, maybe dropping out of the Giro early to do so."
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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