Worlds: Has Gerrans marked himself out of contention?

State of the nation: Australia

The Australian team for the World Championships on paper is a formidable one with options for several scenarios. Simon Gerrans' Canadian double victory saw him assume leadership of the nine-man squad and his odds shorten for the rainbow jersey.

Although Gerrans may have shown his hand early it would be foolish to see the Orica-GreenEdge rider as the only ace in the hole for Australia, or for that matter, too inexperienced to deal with the extra attention.

On a parcours that is seemingly too hard for the sprinters and too easy for the climbers, a puncheur such as Gerrans should excel on the 254km Spanish course come Sunday. However, his main obstacle will be his current form and condition which saw him blitz the peloton at the WorldTour events in Quebec and then Montreal two days later.

The peloton will be watching every pedal stroke by the 33-year-old and try to ensure he doesn't get an inch to move. Gerrans doesn't get his wins with explosive attacks but rather through canny and calculated riding topped off with a killer sprint finish.

Since his move to Orica-GreenEdge at the end of 2011, Gerrans has proven himself adept at targeting a race and delivering with aplomb. In 2012 Gerrans claimed a maiden national road race title before his first monument win — Milan San-Remo. It got better in 2013 with a Tour de France stage win and two days in yellow.

This season has seen Gerrans hit his targets all bar one, the Tour de France which was compromised by a stage one crash involving Mark Cavendish and let his withdrawal due to bruising and abrasions, and these successes will see the Australian enter the Worlds as a rider to watch.

While the stature of Gerrans has been rising, he has had to deal with extra attention in the bunch who see him to be equally as dangerous as the likes of Peter Sagan, Alejandro Valverde and Philippe Gilbert.

Gerrans is experienced enough to know he will be a marked man but will know he isn't the only option Australia have for a medal.

Has Gerrans shown his hand too early?

Gerrans's sprint to victory at the GP de Quebec was a well timed effort that saw him overhaul Tom Dumoulin at the death to claim the win. Two days later in Montreal though was a different story. Gerrans had enough time to sit up, check over his right shoulder, check over his left shoulder, pause, and throw his arms up in victory.

Gerrans' annihilation of the Canadian WorldTour peloton would have had plenty of riders and national selectors going back over the tapes to see exactly what it is the Australian does so well and how to stop him.

Stopping Gerrans won't stop the Australians who in Michael Matthews, have a genuine contender for the rainbow jersey should the race prove to be less selective than assumed finish in a small group sprint.

Australia will also be able to call upon Cadel Evans, Simon Clarke and Rohan Dennis, and possibly Adam Hansen as well, to disrupt the race in the final laps by attacking off the front and forcing other nations to chase.

Gerrans can look to counter punch if such attacks amount to nothing with his chances for the rainbow jersey to depend on who is left whether the likes of Italy, Belgium or Spain want to land a few blows of their own.

Will Impey or Albasini lend a hand?

Instrumental to Gerrans' successes at GreenEdge has been the selfless work by his teammates. Cam Meyer's aggressive racing at the Australian nationals in January was key to Gerrans win while Daryl Impey and Michael Albasini have developed almost telepathic relationship with their leader.

The Worlds is strictly a national race but on increasingly globalised teams, the fact of collusion is real. Riders are paid by their trade team and race for the trade teams in almost all bar two races in a season — national championships and the Worlds.

Just ask Charly Wegelius and Tom Southam about trade team allegiances while wearing their national kit. The duo infamously decided to forgo their allegiance to their Great Britain team at the 2005 Worlds in favour of the Italians as Wegelius was riding for the Liquigas team at the time.

Both were sanctioned for the misdemeanours and that was the last time Wegelius rode for his country.

Given the repercussions, it is unlikely that Impey or Albasini would be too forthcoming in lending a hand to Gerrans' bid for the rainbow jersey but stranger things have happened before.

Valverde's inability to follow an attack by Portuguese teammate Rui Costa when Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain) looked set for the rainbow jersey last year in Florence suggested that trade team relationships can be just as strong, if not stronger, than national ties.

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