Victorian Simon Gerrans' performances have earned him a leadership role with the Ag2r professional team in the 2006 Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under.
Gerrans made his Tour de France debut this year not only completing the three week race but also scoring third place on stage 17. Last month the 25 year-old returned home and secured overall honours in the Herald Sun Tour, further increasing the pressure for next season.
"My Tour de France performance has had a huge impact on what the team expects from me," Gerrans said. "I think next season they will put me in a leadership role more often and that will start with the Tour Down Under in January. My 2005 season has also given me more confidence and increased the expectations I put on myself. I plan to start the season in really good shape with a view to winning a stage and maybe challenging for overall in Adelaide."
Gerrans will have a versatile team around him, giving Ag2r several options to pursue depending on the way the race develops. "It's a really mixed team with strong guys like Yuriy Krivtsov, who has great time trial credentials and can ride all day on the front, and Samuel Dumoulin, who is a good all rounder with a fast finish," Gerrans continued. "Then you have climbers like Sylvain Calzati, who won the Tour de l'Avenir this year, and Cyril Dessel, silver medallist at the French Championships, who can both challenge for overall."
Also on the start list is Jose Luis Arrieta recently signed from Illes Balears. "They all love coming to Australia and the riders who haven't been here before are really excited to be racing the event," said Gerrans, who rode for Australia at this year's World Championships in Madrid and also has his sights set on Commonwealth Games selection. While he is currently enjoying a break from training he'll soon be back on the bike to ensure he begins 2006 in top form.
The full Ag2r roster for the Tour Down Under from January 17-22, 2006: Simon Gerrans, Jose Luis Arrieta, Sylvain Calzati, Cyril Dessel, Samuel Dumoulin, Yuriy Krivtsov, Carl Naibo and Ludovic Turpin.
Further teams and riders competing in the Tour will be confirmed as they become available. For more information, go to: www.tourdownunder.com.au.