After a 2014 season in which he finished as the third best ranked rider in the WorldTour and silver medal in the world championships road race, the 2015 season was all but a write off for Simon Gerrans due to numerous crashes and broken bones.
Distanced on the decisive Corkscrew climb on stage 3 of the Tour Down Under, Gerrans fought back on the fast, technical descent into Campbelltown to outfox and outsprint his overall rivals for the race and claim his first win in 16-months.
“This is great, it’s been such a long time between drinks and a such difficult season last year so to start out with the Tour Down Under and start winning in 2016 I am really, really happy. To come away with a stage win and the leader’s jersey, we couldn’t have hoped for a lot more than that from today,” Gerrans said after winning his fourth career stage at the race.
“I came from quite a way back, I knew it was going to be a fast finish but everyone was pretty hammered after getting over the Corkscrew. I am really thrilled to win it, even by the narrowest of margins.”
With Michael Woods (Cannondale) and Sergio Henao (Team Sky) dancing away from a select group on the final steep pitches of the climb, it appeared Gerrans’ hopes for a fourth GC win at the race were disappearing into the distance. However, Gerrans and his fellow chasers made contact with the two leaders to enter the final straight together.
With race leader Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff) and Rohan Dennis (BMC) hitting out early, Gerrans timed his sprint to snare the win on the line and with it a valuable 10 second bonus. While Dennis also picked up bonus seconds, a late bike throw from Woods meant McCarthy would be handing over his jersey to the 35-year-old.
“It’s difficult but I'll tell you what, it’s a lot harder to get than it is to keep,” Gerrans said of moving into the ochre jersey for the first time since winning the race in 2014. “The fact that I got 10 seconds on the line today is going to go a hell of a long way in the overall.”
Compared to 24-hours prior when Gerrans found himself on the ground following a final kilometre crash into Stirling, he explained the difference in emotion.
“The guys worked so hard of me yesterday and they really laid it on the line and gave me every opportunity and to have a mishap so close to the finish when I was feeling so good was bitterly disappointing for myself and the entire team. To come away 24-hours later with a win and now the lead, I think everyone will be really happy tonight.”
With Gerrans holding a three second lead over McCarthy and five seconds over Dennis, bonus seconds at the immediate sprint points are sure to be a tactical feature in how the race plays out over the next three days. McCarthy made his intentions clear today as he picked up four bonus seconds, just as Gerrans did so on stage 2 to steal five seconds.
Stage 4’s intermediate sprint points come at 27.6km in Mylor and 100.9km in Goolwa before the final sprint in Victor Harbor at 138km where there will also be bonus seconds on the line. When asked what his approach will be tomorrow, Gerrans explained the decision will be made in the pre-race team meeting.
“We’ll have a talk about that tomorrow I guess, I am not sure when there are exactly in the stage but we will have a bit of responsibility again tomorrow so we’ll see how it pans out.”