Simon Gerrans will lead the Orica-GreenEdge team at Sunday's Amstel Gold Race, hoping to put his green and gold Australian national champion's on the top step of the podium after finishing third in 2013 behind lone winner Roman Kreuziger and Alejandro Valverde.
Gerrans was on fire in January when he won the Tour Down Under but struggled with illness when he returned to Europe. However he showed he has found his Ardennes form at Wednesday's De Brabantse Pijl race by going on the attack and helping Michael Matthews take second in the sprint behind Philippe Gilbert (BMC).
Gerrans will not ride Fleche-Wallonne, with Orica-GreenEdge bringing several pairs of fresh legs for the mid-week race, but is convinced he can leave his mark in Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
“I’m really happy with my condition at the moment leading into Amstel Gold. Although it’s been a turbulent spring for me with sickness and few minor setbacks, the final phase of my preparation for the Ardennes has gone really well," Gerrans said in a press release from the team.
"I’ve put the rungs on the board with Amstel in the past, so I’m probably going to be the guy the team looks to get a result on Sunday, and I feel up for the challenge.”
Gerrans will be backed by Christian Meier, Daryl Impey, Mathew Hayman, Michael Albasini, Michael Matthews, Pieter Weening and Simon Clarke.
Matthews will be Orica-GreenEdge's sprint option if the race stays together and if he can handle the 34 Limburg hills and the final climb of the Cauberg.He was an impressive second at De Brabantse Pijl.
“The goal is to win, but there are a lot of other teams and riders with the exact same goal. I think the main difference is that we have several guys that could win this race where others team might only have one," Matthews said.
"It gives us good confidence to know that we have so many different options because on race day, the race could unfold any number of ways, and we have every option covered.”
Fresh legs for Fleche-Wallonne
While many teams filed the same squad of riders for all three of the Ardennes Classics, Orica-GreenEdge will rest Gerrans during the week, with Michael Albasini the expected team leader for Fleche-Wallonne. He will be joined by Adam and Simon Yates, Cameron Meyer, Christian Meier, Ivan Santaromita, Pieter Weening and Simon Clarke.
Gerrans finished tenth in last year's Liege-Bastogne-Liege, 18 seconds behind winner Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), in the same time Gilbert, Ryder Hesjedal and Rui Costa.
“This is the big one," Gerrans said of La Doyenne, the oldest and arguably the hardest one day Classic of the season.
"It’s the only monument in the Ardennes week, and it’s one of the oldest races on the calendar. Of the riders that target the Ardennes, there are many that dream of winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège."
"It’s a more demanding course than Amstel or Flèche. The climbs are a bit longer and quite a bit harder. Generally a climber who can be very good over six hours of racing wins this one. This sets Liège apart Amstel and Flèche, where an explosive rider like myself has a better chance.”
Gerrans will be backed by a solid squad that includes Cameron Meyer, Christian Meier, Daryl Impey, Ivan Santaromita, Michael Albasini, Pieter Weening and Simon Clarke.