Simon Gerrans is fully recovered from the hip fracture he incurred during the third stage of this year's Vuelta, an injury that later saw him withdraw from the race and put his World Title ambitions on the shelf for another year. With his 2014 season subsequently brought forward by a month he is now back training with renewed vigour, with an Ardennes Classic and a rainbow jersey standing as the remaining red rags to his bullish motivation. Gerrans has also been buoyed in recent weeks by the announcement that Orica GreenEdge have signed Simon and Adam Yates, Esteban Chaves and Caleb Ewan.
After Gerrans won the third stage and took the yellow jersey at this year's Tour de France, Greg Henderson (Lotto-Belisol) tweeted the following apt appraisal:
"Awesome ride @simongerrans. The Sniper of Cycling. When he targets something...he never misses."
With a laugh and a modest acknowledgement of such evaluation, Gerrans selflessly attributed his success in hitting targets to his teammates and the support network around him. He also revealed, however, that missing a target does take its toll.
"The world’s road race was one of my big goals this season," Gerrans told Cyclingnews. "It was a course that suited me really well and I planned my whole second half of the year … well, following the first week of the Tour de France that was my big goal. So it was pretty disappointing to crash out a month beforehand. But what can I say?"
With such disappointments behind, however, Gerrans is well into the familiar motion of planning his next attack, citing a trophy cabinet bereft of a Spring Classic as his main driver for the coming season.
"The skeleton of my race calendar stays very similar from year to year now, at this point in my career. There's just some minor tweaks and changes that we do," he explained. "I guess the few boxes that I'd love to tick in my career are that I'd love to win a Spring Classic, either Amstel Gold or Liege-Bastogne-Liege. And finally the world titles, that's such a prestigious race and it's a massive goal of mine to try and win a world championship one day."
No 'off' in off-season
The here and now for Gerrans involves the processes that have become de rigeur as he goes about his pre-season, with his routine of plyometric and strength based exercises yet again providing the base for another season's assault.
"I do a fairly significant block [of gym work] in my off-season and pre-season, and over the past few years it's something I've tried to maintain as much as I can throughout the season as well," he said. "Obviously it's not nearly as intense during the season as it would be during this time of year, but I continue it to a certain degree and it nonetheless maintains that good work that we've done in the pre-season period."
And although a fractured hip is far from ideal, a smooth recovery and the progression through his aforementioned gym program has actually landed Gerrans ahead of schedule.
"I planned on racing right through to Lombardia but I ended up finishing half-way through the Vuelta so that really cut my 2013 a little short and by doing that I had my break a fair bit earlier," explained Gerrans. "I pretty much had to have the next three to four weeks after that [the fractured hip] of total rest. I really had to keep off my feet and not really do anything too much.
"Following that period I eased back into training a little bit, I was getting plenty of physio and rehab exercises. And then throw in a couple of weeks more of rehab and light riding and I’m now back on the bike and preparing for my 2014 season a little earlier than normal. So it took six weeks to come good after the initial crash but now I feel absolutely fine."
On top of this Gerrans remains busy in his 'down' time with a number of sponsorship commitments, from his personal work with charity group Chain Reaction to Orica GreenEdge member's rides such as their annual River and Ranges Winery Ride at Gerry Ryan's Michelton Estate Winery.
Orica GreenEdge recently revealed they had secured the Yates brothers, Ewan and Chaves much to the excitement of Gerrans. With great talent comes great praise, and although remaining wary not to read too far into the hyperbole surrounding his new teammates, Gerrans is nonetheless excited for what the future holds.
"It's obviously a really exciting time for the team," he said. "I think GreenEdge have done some fantastic work with their recruiting and I'm really excited to be working with these young guys and hopefully I can help them with their development over the next couple of years, and then obviously racing with them in the thick of things in the future."
Having heard Adam Yates' comments that if he went to Sky he'd "end up working on the front like a slave", Gerrans gave affirmation to the young Brits reasoning, albeit in more diplomatic tone. On whether the Yates twins or Ewan would be given leadership roles straight away, Gerrans hinted that such a proposal may not be so far-fetched.
"I expect those guys to be very competitive right from the start and I'm sure Orica GreenEdge is going to be able to offer them a nicely balanced race program at some smaller races where they're going to have the opportunity to try and win right from the beginning," said Gerrans. "They'll also have the opportunity I imagine to do some races at the highest level and really use those races as development, to learn from a few of the more experienced guys in the team and basically get that harder racing in their legs which is all about their development for the future.
"Obviously Orica GreenEdge is a team that's very different to Sky in our objectives, Sky are very much a fantastic team, there's no question about that. And I really had a good couple of years there, but they're a team these days that are really focused on winning GC and Grand Tours and rightly so with the roster that they've got. So I can see from the Yates boys' point of view, they might have been a bit hesitant to go to that team and have maybe limited opportunities.
"Whereas with Orica GreenEdge we're not a team that really focuses on GC in many races, we're more about going for stage victories and one-day races and maybe the odd smaller tour. From what I've heard I think that maybe suits the Yates boys characteristics much more than riding for three weeks, at least at this stage in their career anyway."
The obvious question then begs, if GreenEdge are to begin targeting the GC at Grand Tours, are the Yates brother’s part of that plan?
"I don't know the boys well enough at this stage to comment on whether they would be Grand Tour contenders," admitted Gerrans. "Obviously Adam Yates, being up there on GC at Tour de l'Avenir, he's showing some great ability to race for GC so what he could develop into is pretty exciting.
"But I just don't know the boys well enough yet, I haven't even met them in person. I'll meet them at our training camp in a few weeks' time and then we can all see what their attitude is like. Because obviously it takes a pretty special person and a very committed rider to be competitive in a Grand Tour."
A shortened season?
For a professional cyclist one thing tougher than a long interview is a long season, and with the recent appeal by Philippe Gilbert to the UCI for an easing in the length and difficulty of the race calendar, this is something that Gerrans is wholeheartedly on board with.
"That would definitely be a huge benefit I think to most riders, to have that racing season compacted into a shorter period of time," he explained. "Being Australian it’s obviously a big priority every year to be in good shape for the Australian races in January, but then it’s very, very difficult to do a season that finishes in late October.
"There are not many guys who can race at a high level in January and still be at a good level by October. In my opinion the racing season is too long and probably needs to be compacted by a significant period of time at one end of it, or a couple of weeks at either end."
Despite the length of the season as it stands, Gerrans remains undoubtedly successful at shooting for the win in January and then re-loading for a second shot at the classics or the Tour de France. With the 33-year-old still holding a number of seasons up his sleeve as yet, and with four of the most exciting names in world cycling by his side, the next chapter in Orica GreenEdge's history should prove to be nothing short of exciting.