Australia’s Luke Durbridge, riding for Orica-GreenEdge, edged Britain’s triple Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins to win the 5.7km Criterium du Dauphine prologue on Sunday.
The 21-year-old junior world time trial champion and national time trial champion crossed the line 1 second up on Wiggins in the race against the clock in what is a key tune-up race for next month’s Tour de France.
“I wasn’t expecting this, I was more looking at finishing in the first five,” said Durbridge, who thus took his maiden win on the WorldTour. “It all went well, I was able to ride quick and finish quick. It was the right choice to set off among the first riders. We’d seen the weather forecast and we were worried about the rain which was at risk of falling in the afternoon.”
Defending champion Wiggins, who has been in fine form this season winning the Paris-Nice and Tour of Romandie stage races, said he was satisfied with his result.
“I am happy enough to finish second, but it is all about the whole week and not just this prologue,” he said. “I could not have asked for more than what I did today.”
“It is always the same thing in prologues. When there is more than three hours between the first starters and the last ones, the conditions can vary,” Wiggins added. “I am where I want to be. We are now approaching the Tour de France. We are less than four weeks away from the start of the race and there is not much training left to do.”
“Now its really down to race time,” he said.
Behind the front two Astana’s Andriy Grivko took third at 3 seconds, with Spain’s Carlos Barredo fourth and Germany’s world time trial champion Tony Martin fifth, 5 seconds behind.
Further back came Australia’s Tour de France titleholder Cadel Evans in ninth at 6 seconds.
With Wiggins showing superb form this season ahead of a renewed assault on the Tour de France yellow jersey — he crashed out on stage seven last year — this week’s race should also reveal how Evans is shaping up less than a month before the race start.
Evans has had a lackluster season so far, but Evans’ sporting director at BMC John Lelangue says the Australian — a four-time runner-up at the Dauphine — has major ambitions this week.
“Cadel made a very good come back to competition, he only lost time on the specialists and he is very well ranked among the favorites,” said Lelangue, who believes the fight for the overall will really take place during the time trial on Thursday. “He will have to stay safe during the coming stages and after this prologue, we have nice perspectives for the overall.”
Yesterday’s first stage was to be a 187km run from Seyssins to Saint-Vallier.
The race finishes on Sunday with a 124.5km ride from Morzine to Chatel.