Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) admits that he will not be on top form for the Ardennes Classics, following his recovery from a broken elbow. The Australian sustained the injury at Strade Bianche last month and says that, while his range of motion is almost back to normal, it has prevented him from training properly for the punchy climbs of the Ardennes.
"It's close, my elbow is still not 100 per cent,” Gerrans told Cyclingnews. “I haven’t got full range in the arm, so I’m not able to completely straighten it out. I’ve kind of had to adjust my riding style a little bit to accommodate that for a while until I get the full range back into it again. I haven’t been able to put a huge amount of strength through that arm, so it’s kind of limited how much explosive style training I’ve been able to do in the last few weeks.”
Gerrans has had a bumpy road this season, with injuries plaguing him right from the very start. He broke his collarbone in January while training, ruling him out of the Tour Down Under. The 34-year-old then came back to racing at Strade Bianche, only to get involved in a slow speed crash when another rider collided with him from behind. He finally made his second comeback to the peloton earlier this month at the one-day Vuelta a la Rioja before riding the Vuelta al País Vasco.
After the multitude of set-backs, Gerrans was pleasantly surprised by his progress. “I wasn’t expecting really big things going into the race because I had such limited preparation. I’d only really been on the road for about a week, so I got there and thought that I was really going to struggle. I did a lot better than I anticipated, so I was pretty happy about that,” said Gerrans.
Gerrans’ last two spring campaigns have been largely successful, and he crowned it off with his second Monument victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year. He will begin his Ardennes campaign this Sunday with the Amstel Gold Race where he has finished third for the past two years. While Gerrans has resigned himself to the knowledge that he won’t be able to match the success of the previous two seasons, he hopes that he can raise his game in the week between Amstel and Liège.
“They’re a big focal point for a lot of guys in their season so a lot of guys are in their best condition. To be a little bit below that, I think that it’s a little bit unrealistic to be hoping to win the race,” said Gerrans. “I hope that I’ll be racing a lot closer to the front in Liège than what I expect to be at Amstel but, like I said, realistically with what I’ve been able to do over the last few weeks I’m already happy with the level that I’m at. Realistically, I don’t think I’m at a level to be going for the win in Liege.”
With Gerrans still building his form, Michael Matthews will the team’s biggest hope for victory. “Michael’s made a great progression this year already,” said Gerrans. “Finishing in the front group at Milan-San Remo, I think that is his first top 10 in a WorldTour one-day race, that’s already a big progression from what we’ve seen from Michael in the past. If he continues down that path then we’ll hopefully see him in the front again on Sunday at Amstel.”
Return to the Giro
Not being able to get to full form for the Ardennes is a big disappointment for Gerrans but one he was prepared for almost as soon as he came off his bike at Strade Bianche, which is why the Giro d’Italia has been subsequently placed into his programme. The Italian Grand Tour was not initially on his schedule at the start of the season but it has been added so that he has something to build towards in the first half of the year. It’s only the second time that Gerrans will have ridden the Giro, but he’s excited about the prospect.
“That’s something really significant I’ve got to look forward to in under a month’s time now. If I can continue on this trajectory and through this little block of racing, I’m going to race Tour de Romandie as well, I hope that I can hit the Giro in really good shape and in a realistic time frame,” Gerrans told Cyclingnews.
Orica-GreenEdge had a very successful Giro d’Italia in 2014, winning the opening team time trial to begin a week-long run in the maglia rosa. They went on to win a further two stages with Matthews and Pieter Weening. Gerrans is looking to add another stage of the Giro to the one that he took in 2009, while the team will be targeting a repeat performance in the time trial. Matthews is also expected to be part of the line-up in May.
“If we were able to perform at the Giro at that kind of level again then we would be thrilled, but it’s always quite difficult to back it up once you’ve done a good performance like that,” said Gerrans. “The big goal there would be to win a stage. After the team time trial performances that the team has done at the Giro in the past, if we can do a good performance and I’m able to get a stage win early on in the race then I think it’s quite achievable to take the pink jersey at some point.”