Second in the Vuelta al País Vasco’s stage 3 saw Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) move into the points jersey, and although the Australian says his chances of keeping it are limited, he is where he wants to be for his big targets of this spring: the Ardennes Classics.
Third three times in Amstel Gold and the winner of Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2014, Gerrans has shown strong form on Monday when he took third behind stage 1 winner Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and fellow breakaway Dani Navarro (Cofidis). Then on Wednesday, he was even closer.
Gerrans started by heaping praise on the man who beat him on stage 3, telling Cyclingnews “It was a great move by Steve, he’s become an expert in attacking in the finals. There was a little bit of a hesitation behind and that was enough to give him the gap to take the stage, and I was kind of best of the rest.”
If first place was out of his reach once Cummings had gone, Gerrans had to fight hard for second against Fabio Felline (Trek Segafredo) in what was a tumultuous finale. The final climb, coming so late, made for a dis-organised bunch sprint. “I knew Felline would be right up there, he’s pretty quick and it was a little bit of a messy finish, there weren’t that many guys there with teammates left, so everyone was kind of fighting for themselves.”
Gerrans, at the least, went away having taken over the points classification lead from Mikel Landa (Sky), and he received the jersey from none other than local cycling star Miguel Indurain. The Australian - who first met Indurain back when he won the Tour Down Under in 2006, “which was a few years ago now,” he added with a smile - made sure he had his photo taken with ‘Big Mig’ after the podium ceremony, too.
With three very hilly stages for the overall classification now coming up, Gerrans was none too optimistic about increasing his lead in the points competition, though, or indeed fighting for another sprint. But he feels sure with the form that he has shown in País Vasco, a good Classics performance in the hills of southern Holland and Belgium could well be on the cards.
“I’ll be surprised if I score any more points from here on, my big chances were stage one and today,” he said. “Unfortunately I didn’t get a win, but it’s good to be up there.”
Although he won’t be racing Fleche Wallonne, “Amstel and Liege will be my big objectives, and it’s always nice to get some results here in the Basque Country, but in the big scheme of things, it’s al about getting ready for the Ardennes. That’s the big one, and I feel like everything is on track.”