Simon Gerrans (Orica GreenEdge) will make his comeback to racing at next week's Strade Bianche after fully recovering from a broken collarbone. The former Australian national champion suffered the break in a mountain biking crash in December and missed the Australian national championships and Tour Down Under as a result.
The enforced layoff allowed the Orica rider to gradually build up for his comeback to racing in Europe and although he will also miss Milan-San Remo later this month, he has his sights firmly on the Ardennes Classics.
"I'm looking forward to getting back into some racing. I'm pleased to report that I'm 100 per cent recovered from my injury," Gerrans told Cyclingnews from his base in Monaco on Sunday evening.
"I had the surgery and the doctors did a great job and it meant that I only had ten days off the bike. I could have rushed back but with the timing of the injury it meant I couldn't ride races in Australia and therefore I could just drop back in to my schedule and come back at Strade Bianche. This plan has allowed me to make sure that everything is right with my body before I start racing again."
Gerrans is certainly eager to kick-start his season however he is under no illusions about his overall form and he is not placing too much pressure on his shoulders, especially as he finds his feet for the year in Europe.
"I'm super excited about coming back to racing but I just want to get back out there and test my legs again. Obviously I'll be competing against guys with a lot of race days in their legs so I'm not going there expecting to set the world on fire but once I get a few race days under my belt I shouldn't be too far off the mark. I don't have huge expectations for Strade but I hope not to be too off the pace."
Gerrans will also line up for GP Nobili and the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya before he takes a planned break and builds towards the Ardennes, where he won Liege-Bastogne-Liege last season. His revised race plan means that Milan-San Remo, a race he won in 2012, is no longer on his schedule as he targets Amstel Gold and the defence of his Liege-Bastogne-Liege crown.
"I really hope that with the enforced rest and a more gradual build up will work in my favour when it comes to the Classics. I'm going into unchartered territory having had such a big pre-season but I'm really looking ahead to what it will mean for the Classics. It's hard for me to compare where I am though in comparison to previous years," he told Cyclingnews.
"I won't have enough in my legs to be in great shape for San Remo and if I was trying to be in condition to win that race it wouldn't really set me up for the Ardennes. It would be too far away for me to try and carry that form all the way until April. It's just tricky timing wise. Back in 2012 I carried my January form into San Remo but then I felt like I was below par in April. Last year I got it right, having that rest and then coming up again for the Ardennes. It's tricky at this time of year because you have such an array of races that are spread out."