Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) is back in action in Europe after his Santos Tour Down Under victory, riding the GP di Camaiore in Tuscany as his first step to building for the Ardennes Classics.
The Australian national champion will also ride Paris-Nice and then is almost certain to return to Milan-San Remo, which he won in 2012, despite the route no longer including the Pompeiana climb. A taste of the Flanders classics at the E3 Harelbeke is on the cards before targeting the Amstel Gold Race, Fleche-Wallonne and especially Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Gerrans lined up at the GP di Camaiore with Orica-GreenEdge teammates Michael Albasini, Simon Clarke, Christian Meier, Italian national champion Ivan Santaromita, Simon and Adam Yates and Jens Keukeleire.
"This is my first race of the year over here. I'm looking forward to getting back into the racing rhythm and getting things started in Europe," Gerrans told Cyclingnews before heading to the start line, wrapped up in a Australian champion's gilet and arm warmers against the chill of the Italian spring.
"It's good to be back in action. My morale is still high after winning the Tour Down Under. It was a perfect way to start the year and paid me back for the hard work I did leading into those races. We put a big effort into going well there and so it was really pleasing to get the result we were looking for."
Rebuilding for the Ardennes
Gerrans was on peak form in January and then played a vital role in helping teammate Simon Clarke with the Herald Sun Tour. He then took a break before traveling to Europe.
"I shut it right down after finishing the Herald Sun Tour and had a proper rest. I then traveled back to Europe and then eased back into things," he explained.
"I've pegged back my form because my big objectives for the European spring are the Ardennes Classics and they don’t come for another month or so."
Gerrans will head to Paris after the GP di Camaiore for the start of Paris-Nice on Sunday. The hilly route suits him well but he is likely to support sprinters Michael Matthews and Matt Goss, with Albasini expected to lead the team during the weeklong stage race.
"I'm using the initial races of this period to build my form again," Gerrans explained to Cyclingnews.
"Paris-Nice is an important race, don’t get me wrong but for me it's more about for what's down the road, rather than trying to win big now."