Simon Gerrans had a disappointing Ardennes campaign in his first season with Team Sky last year but proved he can be an Ardennes classic contender with third place at the Amstel Gold Race behind Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha).
He didn't have the kick to go with Gilbert on the Cauberg as he stormed after Rodriguez and then on to the finish line but finished well to take third ahead of Jacob Fuglsang (Leopard Trek), Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank). He was rightly pleased with his performance.
"I'm really pleased with this third place. Two years ago I was really competitive in these races. Last year I didn't have a really great classics campaign but I'm really wrapped to be back up there at the top end of the race," he said after the press conference.
"It was quite difficult coming to these races last year and not being competitive after some mishaps leading up to them. But the team backed me in this race again and this is a really for my team, not only Team Sky but also my little team back in Monaco of my coach, my trainer and my wife."
Gerrans has had a low profile start to the season as Team Sky focused on the cobbled classics and so chose a conservative race strategy.
"I waited for the selection, then put it on the line and tried to do the best I could on the Cauberg," he explained.
"I just went as hard as I could from the bottom and perhaps had a little bit longer effort in my legs than the other guys. Rodriguez got a really good jump on us; Philippe went after him and the straight past. I tried to kick with Philippe, but then maintained it and took it all the way to the finish line."
Impressed with Gilbert
Gerrans often trains with Philippe Gilbert in Monaco and their families spend time together away from races. He knew he would be make a strong attack on the Cauberg and was in the right place to go with him but didn't have the power to respond.
"It was an incredible ride that he did today. When he had to do some work himself in the final kilometres I thought it might make it difficult for him in the finale and that it was coming together nicely for me," Gerrans said.
"I thought that if I stayed right on his hip and right with him when he kicked, then I could go with him. But then he unleashed that acceleration that he has and it blew everyone away. It was an impressive ride," Gerrans said.
Up there in Fleche-Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Team Sky will strengthen their team for Fleche-Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Gerrans is convinced this will further help his chance of success later in the week. He was sixth in Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2009 and eighth in Fleche-Wallonne.
"We're bringing in a few different guys for Fleche and Liege. We've got Rigoberto Uran and Thomas Lökvist and this was Steve Cummings' first Amstel Gold Race but he's done Fleche and Liege before. So I think we'll have a stronger team for the next few races," he reasoned.
"I think I can be competitive in Fleche and Liege too. In the last few years, my best results have come in Liege and so I'm feeling good and hope to be up there again."