Simon Gerrans on his four Tour Down Under victories

Defending champion talks exclusively to Cyclingnews about his race wins

Defending Tour Down Under champion Simon Gerrans holds the record for most overall victories since the first edition of the race back in 1999. The Orica-Scott rider first won the title in 2006 with AG2R Prévoyance and has since added three wins with the GreenEdge squad in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

In 2017, the 36-year-old is aiming for his first successful title defence and first victory in an odd-numbered year.

With a lengthy palmares that includes wins at Milan-San Remo and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, stage wins at all three Grand Tours and stints in the leader's yellow and pink jerseys of the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia, respectively, along with numerous other wins. How does Gerrans rate his wins at the Tour Down Under?

"They are right up there for me. Obviously, I have won some great races in Europe, but being an Aussie, to perform at what has been up until now our only WorldTour event, is pretty important," Gerrans told Cyclingnews of the personal importance of the wins.

"The Tour Down Under has always been an important race for me and has obviously become more important since I have been racing for GreenEdge. With four wins there now, I have stamped my authority on the race over the years and hopefully I have a few more years racing in me, and I hope to continue to do well there." 

2006 Tour Down Under

Simon Gerrans was not a name on many people's list of favourites ahead of the 2006 Tour Down Under, with the likes of Robbie McEwen, Luis Leon Sanchez and Allan Davis tipped for glory. Gerrans, riding for French team AG2R Prévoyance, won the opening stage of the race in Angaston ahead of Sanchez while the peloton crossed the line over 23 minutes later.

Gerrans' seven-second advantage over Sanchez was unchanged for the race and he held on to claim the victory just months after winning Australia's oldest stage race, the Herald Sun Tour.

"My first win at Tour Down Under was pretty special because it was one of my earliest big international wins. I know it wasn't WorldTour at the time but to win at the Tour Down Under in front of such a strong peloton probably really announced my presence in the professional scene.

"The race was a completely different format back then. Not being WorldTour it was often won on the first stage in a big breakaway, and that is what I managed to get in and then make a selection from and just finish in front of Luis Leon Sanchez and maintain that lead right until the finish."

Final General classification
1st: Simon Gerrans (Aus) AG2R Prévoyance 16:36.54
2nd: Luis Leon Sanchez (Esp) Liberty Seguros-Würth @ 7 seconds
3rd: Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon–Lotto @ 14 seconds

2012 Tour Down Under

Six years later, Gerrans was a favourite as he spearheaded the new GreenEdge team hungry for victory on home soil on its first professional outing. A change in the Willunga Hill course saw the finish line moved to the top of the 3km hill, swinging the balance towards the likes of a Gerrans and away from the sprinters.

The overall result would be the closest in the race's history, with Gerrans winning the race on placing's after he and Alejandro Valverde finished on the same time. The race would also mark a rivalry between the duo that extends into the present day.

"It was the first time in the race's history that they had a finish on top of Old Willunga Hill. Basically, it changed the dynamics of the race completely from the years previous when it was very much a sprinters dominated race. When they did that, I thought 'this is now a race I can win again at a WorldTourr level'. On top of that, it was the debut season for GreenEdge. I thought what better way to get things started with an Aussie team to do well in these Aussie races. I put in a really big preparation in my pre-season, and I wanted to start out winning. I managed to do that with the national titles and Tour Down Under.

"That was a really important victory for myself, for my place in GreenEdge, but also to announce the arrival of GreenEdge in the professional scene."

Final General classification
1st: Simon Gerrans (Aus) GreenEdge) 20:46:12
2nd: Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team @ 0 seconds
3rd: Tiago Machado (Por) RadioShack–Nissan @ 8 seconds

2014 Tour Down Under

Gerrans' 2013 title defence didn't go to plan but he did manage to take the win on Willunga Hill after his second place the year prior. In 2014, the soon-to-retire Cadel Evans was the fan favourite for victory and would push Gerrans all the way after his sterling win on the Corkscrew looked to have been a knockout blow for Gerrans after he had won a second career stage into Angaston on day one of the race.

Willunga Hill was again the making of Gerrans' victory as he willed himself up the climb to take the ochre jersey back off Evans and claim the win by just one second.

"It started out going really well winning the first stage again and to win in a sprint finish ahead of a guy like Andre Greipel, I was in really good shape. The next day didn't go so well as Cadel rode away from us on the Corkscrew and took that lead and we had to fight tooth and nail for bonus seconds and time bonuses on stage finishes all the way up Willunga Hill. I was really fortunate to have just enough time going into the final stage.

"We were preparing ourselves to be chased on time bonuses even until the last stage. That was probably my most hard-fought victory at Down Under and it was such and exciting race and great to have Cadel there in his last race and have a great battle with those guys."

Final General classification
1st: Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica–GreenEdge 19:57:35
2nd: Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team @ 1 second
3rd: Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre–Merida @ 5 seconds

2016 Tour Down Under

After a challenging 2015 season following on from a season in which he finished third on the WorldTour rankings, Gerrans was back to his best in 2016 typified by his refusal to give up after crashing in the finale of Stage 2 into Stirling.

The nine-second winning margin over Richie Porte was monumental compared to the 2012 and 2014 wins as Orica stamped their authority on the race and Gerrans re-wrote the history books.

"I think I was in my best ever condition for the 2016 race. Off the back of such a difficult year in 2015 with crashes and broken bones and bad luck. for myself, I wanted to get back up on top and on top quickly. Again, I put in a lot of hard work for the 2016 race and it didn't start out so great for me crashing on the second stage when I thought, ‘Oh, what are we beginning here'. I bounced back quickly winning the next two days which put me right back into contention and had enough of an advantage to hold off Richie on Willunga Hill. Really, we achieved so much with the team in last year's Tour Down Under it is going to be really difficult to back those results up again, but I think everyone is motivated to do it.

"For the past three years, it has been every second year so I will try and break that and win on an odd year."

Final General classification
1st: Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) 19:11:33
2nd: Richie Porte (BMC) @ 9 seconds
3rd: Sergio Henao (Team Sky) @ 11 seconds 

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