By Jean-François Quénet in Châteaulin, France
Australia's Simon Gerrans has taken a different approach to his Tour de France preparations this year, and the Credit Agricole rider believes it's already paying off. Gerrans ceased competition for one month after the Spring Classics this season, where he finished 12th at the Amstel Gold race, instead opting to train in the mountains of the United States of America's Colorado.
"I had never been to the United States before and I wanted to see another country combined with altitude training," he said. "I stayed with Chris Leigh, who is a triathlete and a good friend of mine from Australia, and I trained with my other mates from Toyota, including Johnny Clarke, in the Rocky Mountains.
"I had a great time," he added. "If everything goes well in the next couple of weeks, I'll definitely go back to Colorado for training in the future."
Gerrans spent the better part of May training in the USA. The Australian's personal training camp started on May 6 and ran through to May 22.
The youngster's sights are now Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, a race he will contest for the first time. The Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré starts with a 5.6km prologue in Avignon on June 8 and finishes in Grenoble one week later on June 15, following some hard stages in the French Alps.
"It's another new experience for me," he said. "I'll try and get Thor Hushovd up there for a bunch sprint finish that he has good chances of winning and I also intend to go in breakaways for getting a stage win myself."
Gerrans is expected to play a major role in Crédit Agricole's Tour campaign this July, alongside team leader Hushovd in July. Gerrans has contested the French Grand Tour three times for Ag2r, the team he turned professional with in 2005.
Gerrans was pictured everywhere on signs at Saturday's GP Plumelec, a result of his 2007 victory at the event, but the Crédit Agricole rider wasn't able to contest the event as he was competing at Bayern Rundfahrt. Gerrans returned from Germany with the satisfaction of a top 20 finish in the 25.9km time trial, only 1.19 minutes behind UCI World Road Championship bronze medallist.
Gerrans' time trial result is the first sign his new training approach is paying dividens.
"The Bayern Rundfahrt was fantastic for me, actually", he commented. "It's one of the best stage races I've ever done in Europe so far: go roads, good hotels, and a good weather as well.
"It was the ideal race to come back with," he said. "In the first couple of days, I suffered the intensity of the racing but I felt very good by the end."