Two months after he crashed out of the Tour de France with a broken collarbone, Australian allrounder Simon Gerrans (Orica-BikeExchange) is back on the recovery trail at the Vuelta a Espana - and he's already battling hard for team leader Esteban Chaves.
The Vuelta has a well-established tradition of providing riders with an opportunity to salvage something from their summer if the Tour has not gone so well. And in Gerrans' case, falling and breaking his collarbone this July was the latest setback after a rollercoaster 2015, where he had several major crashes, but was then able to claim a record fourth overall victory in the Santos Tour Down Under this January. Following that latest crash, he then reset his end-of-season focus on recovery then rounding things out as best he can in the Vuelta.
"I've been doing a lot of bouncing [back] in the last 18 months, so unfortunately it's something I'm pretty used to," Gerrans told Cyclingnews before the stage 4 start.
"The recovery form my injury has been pretty quick, and that's probably because I'm used to coming back from these things. My preparation is far from ideal for the Vuelta, but I've done everything I can to be in condition, so I'll go with that."
Following his crash in the Tour, Gerrans had some surgery to put a plate in his collarbone a few days later, then a few days after that he was back on the home trainer to minimize loss of condition. He was roughly 10 days on the home trainer, then started back on the road, with about three weeks road training before the Vuelta. Saturday's team time trial was his first race day since the Tour, and he describes the stage, with a wry smile, "as a bit of a shock to the system."
"Obviously the number one goal is to support Esteban as best as possible," Gerrans adds, "he thoroughly deserves the support of the whole team here, so that was always my role coming into the race. I'm anticipating I need a few days of riding into in the race. Then if the situation allows, we'll see what opportunities I have but that comes a long way behind my goal of helping Esteban."
For now at least, the Vuelta is Gerrans' last race of the season. He had originally planned, he said, to finish on the GP Montreal and the Vuelta finishes on the same day as the Canadian one-day race.
"Obviously, missing out on the Tour we thought we'd throw this in again, and get a bit back into the season and have a good goal of supporting Esteban. But the plan this stage is to have a rest after the Vuelta."
He will, he says, go all the way to Madrid, and his current condition, "given the circumstances" he describes as "pretty good."
"We'll see how it pans out with Esteban, on paper there are some really nice stages here and a few selective finishes. Even days marked as flat days are not entirely flat, they are fairly taxing which works well when I'm in top condition."
"Like I said first few days riding into the race, see with Esteban and then we'll asses whether we have a go or not." As for next season and any early objectives, Gerrans isn't thinking about them yet. "The Nationals are a long way off, I've had a pretty tough season. I'm looking forward to having a break, resetting then setting the goals for next year."