Simon Gerrans looms as one of several genuine chances for Australia for today's elite men's road race at the 2011 UCI World Championships in Copenhagen, with Australian Men's Road Coordinator Matt White claiming the 31-year-old "is in the form of his life."
Gerrans countered White's enthusiasm by explaining that it's probably the best form that he's experienced "at this time of year," when speaking to Cyclingnews prior to his departure from his home in Monaco, to Copenhagen to meet up with the rest of the Australian squad.
"It's kind of hard to compare condition-wise between this stage of the season and the spring or during the Tour de France because there's so many guys on different levels," he said. "I definitely feel like I'm doing well at the moment."
Coming off this year's Tour, Gerrans topped the General Classification at the Tour of Denmark – his first overall victory since the 2006 Herald Sun Tour, before going on to finish as runner-up at the GP Plouay. It's a run of form that the Victorian puts down to simply being in good health from June onwards, and also coming away from the Tour de France injury-free given he was forced to endure three separate heavy crashes before finally withdrawing with a broken arm on last year's eighth stage.
"I got through the Tour de France unscathed this year, which is a lot more than what most guys can say, and in good health so I was able to convert that into some good results throughout August and I've just been doing what I can to maintain that kind of form now through until the end of the season," Gerrans explained.
The man for the break
Australian selectors White, Rik Fulcher, Brian Stephens, and Kevin Tabotta chose a team to cover "alternative scenarios" with Gerrans, Matt Goss, and a wily Stuart O'Grady looming as the men most-likely to figure prominently at the finish of the 266 kilometre race for the rainbow jersey.
"Being a world title there's going to be a natural selection throughout the day and then at the final few laps I can really see the race exploding," breakaway specialist Gerrans said of the way he sees the day unfolding. "There're a lot of nations going without a sprinter in great shape so that means that there's going to be a lot of aggressive racing in the last laps so I'm going to do my best to be there and go with those breakaways on the last few laps that's for sure."
Friends and rivals
It was somewhat unsurprising that Gerrans found his moves being marked by occasional training partner Philippe Gilbert in Plouay a month ago, and Gerrans like most, is tipping the Belgian to be in the mix for the podium.
The jury is out when it comes to a definitive answer as to how hard the race will play out with parcours certainly no reflection of overall difficulty but regardless, it's expected that Gilbert will have the answer.
"Just purely for the season he's had, you've got to say that Philippe is one of the big favourites," Gerrans admits. However, he doubts that Belgium should be considered a one-trick pony with Tom Boonen unavailable through injury.
"There are probably a couple of dark horses in that Belgian team with [Greg] Van Avermaet as well, he's one worth watching. And even in a race like I described, there's a couple of guys in the French team that could really make an impact on the race as well. I think it's quite an open world championship but for me you really can't go past Gilbert at the favourite."