Gerrans taking it year-by-year with Tour Down Under defence a priority

Australian Orica-BikeExchange rider aiming to start 2017 strongly

He may be in the final years of his career but Simon Gerrans' enthusiasm to race shows no signs of slowing down with the 36-year-old preparing for another winter of hard work before a tilt at a fifth Tour Down Under crown.

A winner in 2006, 2012, 2014, and 2016, Gerrans is the most decorated rider in the race's history in terms of overall wins. He chose to take up the third year on his Orica BikeExchange contract for 2017 and has his sights set on a strong start to the coming campaign.

"The Tour Down Under is very much an objective. For Orica BikeExchange it's an important race. We're an Australian team so there's always an emphasis on it and I structure my season on starting out well there," he told Cyclingnews at the recent Saitama Criterium in Japan.

"It's always been a big emphasis for me, especially in the last few years. I won it as a second year professional in 2006 and then again in 2012 when I signed with an Australian team. It's been a very important race."

Gerrans long career has seen him become one of Australia's most successful ever road riders with Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Milan-San Remo titles in his palmares. He can also count two stages of the Tour de France and a spell in the yellow jersey to his name.

In 2016 he won the Tour Down Under for the fourth time but his one-day form never reached its peak. He crashed out of the Tour de France but returned to the Vuelta a Espana where he helped Orica BikeExchange have a successful race. Taking part in the final Grand Tour of the season may have helped his team but Gerrans is also hoping it will provide a solid base for next season.

"I've finished up well at the Vuelta and that race was fantastic for the team. We couldn't have asked for a lot more there. It was good to finish on a positive note but also have that big training load. Before that, I had a break of course and it's always hard to come back from broken bones. It's never easy but I've got the experience with that so I know what it takes to come back.

"Obviously, the first objectives will be the Australian races and the Tour Down Under. Then it will be the Ardennes. After that, I'm not sure. We'll have a camp later and the planning will take place then."

At 36 one could be forgiven for thinking that Gerrans might take his foot off the gas as he approaches the end of his racing career. However, he shows no signs of stopping just yet.

"I extended my contract so I'm there for 2017. I'm at the point in my career where I can take it year by year. I've had a fantastic run. I'm one of the older guys but happy to take it season by season at this point."

Whether 2017 will be his final season in the professional peloton remains to be seen.

"I'll see how it goes because if I'm having a good year, I'm still enjoying it, and I'm making a contribution to the team then I'll go on. If next year doesn't go so well then it might be time to look for something else."

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