After his third place in the Amstel Gold Race, Simon Gerrans returns to the Ardennes for the challenge of Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. The Australian, and former Milan-San Remo winner, skipped La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday in a bid to save his strength for Sunday.
Liège is a race that by his own admission doesn't suit him as well as Amstel. Nevertheless he will line up as Orica-GreenEdge's leader, boosted by improving after bouts of illnesses earlier in the spring.
"My form is good I think. I've had a few days at home to freshen up and I'm really to go for Sunday. I showed in Amstel though that I'm in pretty good shape so I'm looking forward to Liège now," Gerrans told Cyclingnews from Orica's training base just outside Liège.
"I've not done Flèche for the last few years now and the thinking is that if I'm going pretty deep in Amstel, doing Flèche would then make it hard to go to Liège. I think it's better to do two out of the three but three in a row is tough if you're going for the win all in three."
Gerrans' best results in Liège-Bastogne-Liège came in 2006, when he finished 6th, but he has made it into the top 20 on several occasions.
"It probably doesn't suit me as much as Amstel does and I think my results show that. I've been on the podium three times in Amstel and I've been in the top ten in Liège. The route doesn't suit me as well but I feel like I'm in good shape and my form is improving."
Gerrans began the 2014 season in flying form. As the leading home nation rider on Australia's biggest cycling team, the Tour Down Under was always going to be a priority. He duly won the race - for the third time - but historically speaking whenever he's peaked so early in the season he's seen his form drop off by the time the Ardennes reach their Liège crescendo.
This season has been somewhat different. He was ruled out of Milan-San Remo with illness and the road back to full health took time. Gerrans argues that as a result he's not fatigued and if anything his form is improving.
"It's impossible to hold your form from January right through until April. The plan is always the back off a little after the racing in Australia. I didn't do that enough in 2012 but I managed to win San Remo but by the Ardennes I was tired. This year, with getting ill and having a turbulent spring it's just held me back that little bit longer and it's probably working out for the better now."
At 33 years of age, Gerrans finds himself in the final year of his contract with Orica GreenEdge. His mind has been focused on racing, as it should be, but there's no denying that a win or top result in Liège would significantly stack the deck in his favour when it comes to finding a ride for next year.
"I'm not a rider who wins 20 races a season," he says in relation to a palmares that also includes stage wins in all three Grand Tours, GP Ouest-France, Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and two national road titles.
"I pick my targets, maybe a couple per year, and in the last few years I've just become more consistent in hitting my mark on the big goals."
As for the future, "at this stage I am in the final year of my contract with Orica GreenEDGE. I've not re-signed yet or anywhere else so I'm currently on the market. We'll start negotiations shortly after the Spring Classics are done."
"There's no question that this is a fantastic team and one where I've had my best results so I'm very happy here. I'm not going to say if I'm going to stay or go, that's very much up in the air and something I'll think about once I get through this period."
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