Gerrans aiming to start season on a high by winning third Australian road title

Objective is for the team to win says Orica-GreenEdge rider

After his annus horribilis of 2015, Simon Gerrans is ready to start his season with a third national Australian road race title for Orica-GreenEdge.

12-months ago Gerrans was forced to watch the race from the side-lines as he recovered from a broken collarbone. He then crashed and broke his elbow on his return to racing at Strade Bianchi. While there was brief respite with a stint in the maglia rosa at the Giro d'Italia, a broken wrist at the Tour de France saw him abandon the grand tour with luck all but deserting the 35-year-old.

"It was different 12-months ago, it was always going to be really difficult to back up last season off such a fantastic year in 2014," Gerrans told reporters. "That was a year that everything went so right for me and then to be side-lined, I thought the first set back of the year was just a minor set back and then from there, we'll move on to a good season. Things just didn't get any better so I guess the hunger is there to just get back to that top level again after such an up and down year in 2015."

In 2014 Gerrans won the national title ahead of Cadel Evans (BMC) and then defeated the Tour de France champion again as he won the Tour Down Under for a third time. Gerrans is looking to emulate his January success of two years ago, starting by claiming the green and gold jersey in Sunday's 183.6km road race.

"I am feeling good and I am looking forward to racing after what has been a pretty solid pre-season and like I said quite a long way out, I was going to put a big emphasis on the early season," he said. "I am looking forward to testing the condition now, obviously I've done a lot of training, not a lot of racing, a few club level criteriums. Sunday's going to be the first real test for me."

While some riders might be content with two-national titles to their name, Gerrans expressed his desire to win the jersey has only grown since first doing so in 2012.

"I think it probably gets stronger because once you've had a taste of how special it is to be Australian champion and have the honour of wearing the green and gold jersey for the next 12-months," he said. "Once you've done it once, the motivation is even higher to get it back again and I am one of the lucky few who've have the chance to do that. Also for myself, you look back at history, when I've started off the season going well it tends to follow on to a good season so that's been a bit of added motivation to get this season off to a good start."

Gerrans is the trump card for Orica-GreenEdge in Sunday's race although with last year's silver medallist and the winner of Wednesday night's criterium title, Caleb Ewan, also in the squad he's not the rider capable of claiming the win.

"We haven't had our meeting yet to talk about how we are going to go about the tactics of the race, I think the strength we have, we don't have by any means the largest contingent on the start line but we have some great options in the team," said Gerrans of the team which also contains 2013 champion Luke Durbridge.

"As much as you guys [the media] say I'll be the leader of the team, I think I'll be the leader in a certain situation. Our strength is that we have plenty of cards to play."

Ever the team man, Gerrans added that while he is hungry for the win, "the objective at the end of the day for the team is to have someone win the race. Obviously I'd love for that to be me but as long as we tick that box of having some win it, I'll be very happy," he said.

While the likes of Drapac and Avanti will surely cause some headaches for Orica-GreenEdge on Sunday, Gerrans is wary of the two-man BMC team of Richie Porte and Rohan Dennis

"It will be interesting to see how they play it out," he said of the duo who went one-two in the time trial. "As you say, they have two very strong guys here who showed they are in very good form off the time trial. They are going to be some real contenders, these guys are grand tour contenders so you cant look past them at a national title.

"Even a Riche who isn't at 100 per cent is still a contender, when he is at 100 per cent, good luck beating him. Regardless of whether he's in top nick of not, you can't write off Richie Porte."

Gerrans will also be racing against former teammate and close friend Simon Clarke who will make his Cannondale debut, adding that he believes the 29-year-old will need to be kept on a short leash by his team.

"Simon Clarke is definitely a contender on a course like this," he said. "I've been in his situation where I've been the only representative from team racing the Aussie titles and you pretty much have to choose a tactic. You have a gamble a little bit and go with it and that's what I imagine Simon Clarke will do. He's a rider who can perform very strongly on a circuit like this so he'll definitely be one to keep on eye on come the final stages of the race."

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