By John Trevorrow
Australian Simon Gerrans, the winner of stage 15, is one of the great rags to riches stories in sport. Gerrans hails from the remote Victorian town of Mansfield, 200 kilometres north east of Melbourne at the foothills of the Alpine snowfields. As a youngster he was an elite skier and an A Grade Motorcross motorcyclist. It was only after a serious accident on the motorbike, which almost saw him lose full use of one leg, that he turned to cycling for rehabilitation.
His father borrowed a bike from a neighbour, who turned out to be none other than Australian cycling great Phil Anderson, the first non-European to wear the Tour de France's maillot jaune. At the time Gerrans only knew Phil as the friend of dad's who had a property down the road.
As the cycling continued Simon fell in love with the bike, and as his knee improved so did his ability in the sport. Phil Anderson could see something special in this youngster. "He has a wonderful fighting spirit," Phil said.
Australian cycling coach Dave Sanders once said that he believed that Gerrans was virtually indestructible. "If there is ever a nuclear war and all of mankind is wiped out. The first living thing that will crawl out of the cracks will probably be the cockroaches, but they will be followed closely by Simon Gerrans."
That indomitable spirit shone on the climb to Prato Nevoso, where Gerrans struggled to get back on terms with his breakaway companions and then handily beat them in the sprint for the line.
As an amateur, Gerrans was always looked on as battler with a bit of ability. But since turning professional his fortunes have risen sharply. With two victories in the Jayco Herald Sun Tour as well as a win in the Tour Down Wnder, Gerrans is well established one of Australia's best road men, but his Tour de France stage victory has now launched him into the top echelon of European cyclists.