Gerrans: I'm not racing with unfinished business

Simon Gerrans was one of the first riders to don GreenEdge colours when the team formed in 2012. During a six-year stretch he became one of their most talismanic riders, picking up two Monuments, a spell in the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, and a string of other vital wins. But on December 31, Gerrans will put away his GreenEdge colours for the last time and awake a BMC Racing rider. End of one era, beginning of another.

At the BMC training camp in Calpe last week Gerrans became more acquainted with his new teammates and surroundings. Richie Porte, the team's Grand Tour leader, had personally requested Gerrans move on board but at one point this year it looked as though the Milan-San Remo and Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner was about to call time on his distinguished career in the pro ranks. Yet with the ink now dry on a new one-year deal, the veteran rider has found a new home and perhaps most importantly a new purpose as one of BMC's team captains.

As the 2017 season wore on it became increasingly clear that GreenEdge were not willing to extend the 37-year-old's contract. The writing was on the wall when he failed to make the cut for the Tour de France and the team instead chose a number of younger riders to build their challenge. Seven years ago, when the team formed, Gerrans would have been one of the first names on the Tour team sheet but the class of 2012 – Gerrans, Daryl Impey and Michael Albasini found themselves fighting for one spot when once there were three.

By the time the latter throes of summer had come and gone Gerrans was still without a deal but keeping his options open as looked towards the next phase of his life. Everything was 'on the table' he says, as he admits that retirement also crossed his mind.

Porte, who was at this point recovering from his Tour crash, was on the lookout for a team captain. BMC had been stung by Samuel Sanchez's positive test on the eve of the Vuelta but a number of experienced riders had also left. Porte was desperate to have experience around him, and although pure climbers were also a must, he couldn't let the chance of signing Gerrans slip through his fingers.

"Richie approached me directly about coming on board and helping him," Gerrans says.

Although Gerrans is unwilling to go into the nitty-gritty of the situation regarding his final months and subsequent departure from Orica, he says that he left the team on professional terms. His relationship with the team's owner Gerry Ryan was - and is - still strong but Gerrans' advancing age, a tighter team budget and the advancing new generation meant that a new deal was always going to be difficult.

"I don't want to dwell on it too much, on why I left Orica GreenEdge," he adds.

"I'd rather focus on the future with BMC Racing team. That's what I'm here for and that's what I'm focused on at the moment. It was time for change, I saw that, Orica saw that and we were happy to go our separate ways.

"I thought about stopping. I made up my mind, as the season went on, that I wasn't going to continue with Orica. I hadn't made any concrete plans and wasn't ruling anything out. I was keeping my options and then this opportunity came along.”

With a new team backing him, Gerrans has the opportunity to close out his career with a fresh set of ambitions. BMC only provide riders with one-year contracts, and at 37 the Australian is certainly closer to the end of his career than the start, but his ambition is still visible. Those assuming that this represents one final payday before retirement would be wide off the mark.

"I'm going to get certain objectives but they come based around the goal of helping Richie. That starts in January at the Tour Down Under when we try and defend his title. Then there's a great opportunity at the Cadel Race the weekend after, where I can have a go."

The Classics are another arena in which Gerrans might shine. With Greg Van Avermaet set to primarily focus on the Classics the team will look to the promising Dylan Teuns for results but Gerrans pedigree will not be ignored.

The main role, however, is to support. He will be expected to share his experience and guide BMC's younger lights towards success. GreenEdge's loss could be BMC's gain but Gerrans acknowledges that his new role involves an entirely different skillset to the one he was used at his previous team.

At BMC he will work for others most of the time and there were times, certainly towards the end of his tenure at GreenEdge, when that didn't sit well with him.

"That's a really important aspect because you can't try and win races with two guys," he says, as we both dance around the topic of Michael Matthews.

"Everything has to go so right to win at the highest level, so you can't line up with 50 per cent of the team behind you. You need not only the whole team but the whole organisation sharing your goal. You need to be really clear on that from the start and I think that's what you have here with Richie in the stage races. That's why I've been recruited to try and help.

"I've got a few seasons under the belt and I've had a few different roles in different teams during my career. I'm hoping to bring some of that experience to BMC and help the leaders fulfil their potential because I think that there are a few areas they can improve on. They had such a fantastic season in 2017 but I think Richie has untapped potential in Grand Tour stage racing. On top of that I'm still performing at a really high level myself. I can make a contribution the WorldTour points as well."

Despite his wins in Milan-San Remo, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, his three wins in the Canadian WorldTour races, a Tour stage and four Tour Down Under titles, Gerrans' best years as a leader are arguably behind him. He is unquestionably one of Australia's best ever, if not the best, one-day riders, but no wins in Europe since 2014 is a telling statistic.

Yet only a rash judge of character and talent would dismiss Gerrans as an entirely faded force.

"I don't feel I have a point to prove. I still want to show that I'm competitive at 37 and I want to make a good contribution. I'm not racing with unfinished business.

"I've achieved so much in my career, more than I would have dreamed of coming into the sport. I'm just making the most of the current situation."

The dream is still alive for Gerrans, he just wakes up in new kit come January.

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Daniel Benson

Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.