Durbridge ready for ride of a lifetime
West Australian rider Luke Durbridge. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

For West Australian lovers of top flight cycling, the best and also the most tiring time of the year is here.

The Tour de France began tonight. And local cycle fans who followed West Australian rider Luke Durbridge's tour debut late into the night on their TV screens have reason to be thankful that he doesn't like swimming.

Durbridge will be one of nine riders in the Australian Orica-GreenEDGE team and among 11 Aussies spread through all teams contesting the tour.

Durbridge only found his way to serious cycling after his hectic round of rugby, basketball and triathlon became too much as he entered his mid-teens, and he had to narrow it down.

He told The Weekend West from Britain as he prepared for stage one of the tour that he had made the State team in triathlon "but I hated swimming, really hated swimming".

"I was about 14 and I thought it was a pretty big decision, but I said 'in that case, can I just try one more'," he said.

Durbridge went down to the local cycling track to "see how I go".

"That was it," Durbridge said. "I pretty much gave up every other sport because I loved it so much."

One of those who saw Durbridge in his early cycling days was Midland Cycle Club vice president Amanda O'Connor.

"It was quite apparent that he had strength," she said.

But his cycling technique was in need of work and so, in the first instance, he tended to be overlooked.

"Once he learnt how to pedal he would go hard and there was no holding him back," Miss O'Connor said.

"He trained through the pain barrier. By the time he got to under-19s it was apparent to us he had a big future."

Durbridge began to chalk up victories at national and international level and now, aged 23, he has been a member of the Orica-GreenEDGE team for three years.

His preparation for the tour was thrown into disarray when he broke a collarbone in the Giro d'Italia in late May.

Just like in his younger years, he trained through the pain barrier to be ready to ride off from Leeds tonight as the tour spends its first three days in Britain.

Durbridge's mother Helen said he had worked extremely hard for his chance and the family was proud of him.

"He has a great mind and his ability to focus is outstanding," she said.

Miss O'Connor said Durbridge was the sort of bloke who gave back to the sport and when he was in Perth he went down to club training and offered encouragement to young local riders.

"He's a good sport and a genuine person," she said.

Operations manager at Cyclesport WA, Toby Hodgson, said the interest often flowed through into an increase in sales for retailers, and he was also aware that keen cyclists were known to set up an exercise bike in front of the TV.

"There is a game that every time you see an Aussie you have to put in a sprint," he said.

Durbridge said as a young rider he had to virtually "write July off", staying up late to watch the tour and getting up early to go to training.

"I thought, 'I have to be a part of that circus'," he said.

The West Australian

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