By Paul Verkuylen in Adelaide, South Australia
The Tour Down Under signifies the beginning of a new era for Australian all rounder Simon Gerrans, as this will be the youngsters first race with the Credit Agricole squad. There's a lot of expectation for success on Gerrans' shoulders, having won the race in 2006, but he is not letting that pressure get to him.
"Being a favorite coming into this race is always really tricky, because if there was a real decisive point on the first stage where the strongest guys formed a natural selection here, it would be great as we would get the strongest guys at the front," he explained. "But the first stage is generally such a lottery that to make that move is tough."
Being so early in the season, and with so many races ahead of them, many teams are playing the ProTour opener cool. Rather than placing pressure on their riders to perform, many teams are waiting to see how the race unfolds.
"There is not much pressure, I wasn't sure how it was going to be here with Credit Agricole, whether they were going to put a lot of pressure on me to try and get a result," Gerrans said. "But they said 'look it's early season, we are not going to put any pressure on you guys to try and win here, the big objectives are still a couple of months away, however, if you miss the break you are going to chase, as we want someone in the race mixing it up'."
This attitude sits well with the Victorian, as he believes that the team will achieve better results this early in the season without the added pressure of needing a result.
Due to the event's ProTour status more teams than ever are lining up in this year's edition, but Gerrans doesn't necessarily see this as being a catalyst for faster racing. "Having less Australians here might slow it down a little as they are generally the more aggressive here," he said.
"Then again having more teams here means having more teams to chase and more teams that are going to want riders in the move which may neutralize the race a little as well," he added. "Only time will tell what is going to happen."
As the first ProTour event of the year, it also means riders are racing for the first ProTour jersey of the season, which may be an extra incentive, but one which Gerrans insists is not yet a priority.
"It would be great to get that jersey, great to take it off Cadel," he said. "Great to have an Aussie to finish with it last year and great to have one start with it this year."