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Gerrans' Down Under victory a relief for new sports director Wilson

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Matt Wilson of GreenEdge.

Matt Wilson of GreenEdge. (Image credit: Shane Goss/
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Simon Gerrans gives locals another reason to cheer on Australia Day by taking the win on top of Old Willunga Hill

Simon Gerrans gives locals another reason to cheer on Australia Day by taking the win on top of Old Willunga Hill (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Baden Cooke and Matt Wilson in happier times

Baden Cooke and Matt Wilson in happier times (Image credit: Régis Garnier)

Matt Wilson has guided the Orica GreenEdge team to its first ever stage win at the Tour Down Under, with Simon Gerrans going one better than last year on Willunga Hill on Saturday.

It was an almost unlikely victory for the reigning Milano-Sanremo winner, having struggled with hay fever and asthma all week. Matt Goss finished as runner-up in Stirling on Thursday but then he and key lead-out men Daryl Impey and Jens Mouris crashed with less than one kilometre left to race on Friday. The Tour Down Under is Orica GreenEdge's home race but that raises expectations sky high. After the problems early in the race, this was a win borne of desire in every sense.

"Everyone came here with really good form and it was just one disappointment after another until now," Wilson told Cyclingnews. "Now it's perfect. On Australia Day to win like that and to win after so many disappointments makes it so much better."

"It's a really good feeling. Of course I would have been disappointed if I had of came away without a win, especially since everyone's going so well. It's a big relief."

There were doubts in the morning over just whether Gerrans would be up for the win given his health issues this week, but Wilson had made himself clear before the 151.1km stage.

"I said whether you think you're going as good as you can or not, you're still our best chance to win and we'll back you and hope you have a good day," the former GreenEdge, Garmin, Team Type-1, Unibet and FDJ rider had told Gerrans.

While Gerrans win was important for the team as a whole, it also provides Wilson with a sense of validation given the incorrect perception that he was at the race simply because Orica GreenEdge sacked sports director Matt White in the wake of the USADA

"My program was already set," he confirmed. "I don't feel that I'm filing anyone's shoes. Everyone's putting the two beasts together and it's not the case."

Embracing the change

Wilson decided five years ago that directing was the direction that his career would head when he finished racing. He started taking note of what he liked and didn't like about people in that position. Wilson is not quite ready to share publicly any description of the type of director he would like to become but he admits that White was very much a role model.

"He brought the best out of people just by being himself," Wilson told Cyclingnews.

Wilson got a taste of his new life as a director at last year's Vuelta a Espana, after he called time on his 11-year career at the Vattenfall Cyclassics. But actually being the man behind the wheel is a different experience altogether, he explained.

"I'm loving it. Really, really loving it. You get to sink your teeth into it and you wake up every day and you know that it's all on you to get everything organised; I'm just loving the new challenge," he said. "You're just using your brain for the first time in a long time - you almost turn your brain off [racing]. It helps now to think about things too much. But now I feel alive."

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As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.


Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.