Durbridge placed sixth last year while Jensen was seventh. Durbridge broke his collarbone in early-January but recovered for ‘opening weekend’ in Belgium and explained the sensations at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne gives him confidence for Strade Bianche.
“I was pretty happy with how things went at the opening weekend in Belgium last week, technically they were my first races of the season and I was around the mark in terms of awareness and position, but I lacked that extra percent that you need to go with the winners,” Durbridge said.
“Getting back into that kind of racing is always quite stressful so I was pleased with my ability to fit back in there and managing to make some of the key moves especially in Sunday at Kuurne. As a team we rode really well and we were fully committed to getting into good positions, the moral within the team is high which bodes well for the big classics in the spring.”
Durbridge placed 45th and 58th at the ‘opening weekend’ races but believes his performances weren’t fully represented by the results. On the white roads of Tuscany, the 26-year-old is aiming for both a top result and performance.
“As far as Saturday goes, it’s a beautiful race that I really enjoy and one that has become a classic in its own right, full of that passion you find in Italian one day racing,” he added. “Personally, last year was a good race for me and a good result and I am looking forward to having the opportunity to give it another crack. I feel that having last weekend’s racing under my belt will help and hopefully we can go in there and try to improve in last year’s performance.”
Sports director Matt White added that while the team is backing Durbridge, he won’t be the only rider with an opportunity to ride for a result.
“Strade Bianche is a great race and it will be a good hit out for the guys ahead of the big classics in Belgium. We did very well in last year’s edition, but with Luke still on his way back to full strength we will support him and give some other guys freedom to test themsleves,” said White.
“It is always a hard race and this year could be very interesting, especially with the cold front that’s hit Europe over the last couple of days.”
Climbing specialists Carlos Verona and Jack Haig, and classics riders Michael Hepburn and Svein Tuft round out the squad for Mitchelton-Scott at the race. The 2018 edition of the WorldTour race starts and finishes in Sienna over 184 kilometres.
Mitchelton-Scott for 2018 Strade Bianche: Luke Durbridge, Jack Haig, Michael Hepburn, Daryl Impey, Chris Juul Jensen, Svein Tuft and Carlos Verona.