A signficant blow for Australia came this evening when Victorian cyclist Simon Gerrans, one of the big favourites for the Commonwealth Games road race, annouced his withdrawal from the team. He will instead undergo surgery on his left shoulder in a French hospital tomorrow after developing an infection in the scar tissue following recent surgery.
The 25 year-old underwent surgery five weeks ago to repair damage to his right shoulder and left collarbone after a crash during the Grand Prix d'Ouverture La Marseillaise in France, but had bravely fought back to regain race fitness and form for Melbourne. However early this morning in Europe, doctors advised Gerrans he will need further surgery to clean out the wound and treat the infection which flared up during this week's Tirreno-Adriatico in Italy.
"While I was racing in Tirreno it swelled up and we kept icing it and settling it down but one night it didn't go down and just got more and more swollen and then it burst and it was full of pus," said a very disappointed Gerrans. "I am shattered because I worked so hard to get going again, back fit and racing so I could compete in the Commonwealth Games and I got so close but I can't do it."
Gerrans had been due to fly out tomorrow from France to Melbourne to join the team but will instead be in hospital. "I'll go under the knife first thing in the morning (Thursday night Australian time) and I asked the specialist if I could still have the surgery and maybe delay my trip by a couple of days and still compete, but he said not to risk it and wants me to have two weeks off the bike."
Gerrans believes it will be three weeks to a month before he will be racing again but is hoping to fly to Australia next week so he can head out to watch the road race on the final day of the Games and support the Australian team. "I'll spend three or four days in hospital to get over the surgery and then because I won't be able to race anyway I'm planning to come home for a few weeks and recover in Australia and would like to head out and cheer on the guys."
Cycling Section Manager for the Commonwealth Games Team, Kevin Tabotta, says whilst disappointed with the news the greater concern is for Gerrans' future career. "There is no doubt it is a blow to the Australian team but his long term health comes first and whilst he is bitterly disappointed he is also standing aside to ensure Australia has the best possible chance," said Tabotta. "A replacement for Simon will be announced in due course."
The GP d'Ouverture la Marseillaise was Gerrans first race in Europe for 2006. Gerrans initial surgery involved doctors putting a pin through his left collarbone which was broken into three pieces in the crash. They also screwed his right AC joint in place after it popped out due to a ligament tear. He was back in training within a week and returned to racing two weeks ago in the Milan-Turin event.
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