In the end, Simon Gerrans’ nine-second hold on the Tour Down Under’s ochre jersey was never threatened on the sixth and final stage of the Australian WorldTour race. Finishing safely in 11th place as teammate Caleb Ewan won his second stage of the race, Gerrans praised his six teammates for delivering him to his fourth GC win.
“I think everybody had to step up to the place this week with the two objectives in the race going for the stage wins in the sprints with Caleb and the overall with myself. It’s actually often that teams want too much and come away with nothing, it’s always a bit of a risk but everyone did what was asked of them and then some,” said Gerrans in his post-race press conference who also won the points classification.
“We saw some fantastic riding by Heppy [Hepburn] and Durbo [Dubridge], riding the front, Michael Albasini also. Mat Hayman was protecting us in the bunch, Daryl Impey was doing some sensational lead outs both on the hillier and flat stages so everybody really, really lifted their game this week and it's really nice to repay their work with such a successful week.”
Gerrans missed his 2015 defence due to injury but has now won three of the last four Tour Down Under he's started, adding to his first triumph in 2006. Asked then which of his four wins carried the most weight, Gerrans explained that “I think every one of my four victories has been equally important and to be totally honest, this one feels just as good as the first one did,” he said.
“It’s a race of such high calibre these days it feels like the level of racing increases each year so this fourth one, although I think it was my largest winning margin, it was still less than 10 seconds so it’s a closely fought race.”
Having won by seven seconds, on placing’s and then by one second, Gerrans’ lead on the last day was the biggest he’s enjoyed yet but said his win was far from a foregone conclusion ahead of the 90km stage.
“I think it was far from inevitable that I was going to win today, as you guys saw, it was a fast race out there. It was far from a procession so I had to keep my wits about me, I was fully concentrated for those 90km, its certainly feels good now that it’s over and done with and I secured the win.
After his annus horribilis of 2015, Gerrans explained that his two stage wins and overall win is a consolation of sorts.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction, looking back on 2014 I had such a fantastic year and then in 2015 nothing seemed to go right. We are back on the right track for 2016 already and I really couldn’t have asked for a much better way to kick off the 2016 season.”
Gerrans will next spearhead the Orica-GreenEdge team at Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race Sunday before heading back to Europe to prepare for the classics and focus on earning selection for the Rio Olympic Games.
“I hope so, first I have to get selected which is going to be no mean feat with so many talented Australian riders these days that the selection is going to be very tough to make and its tough course there in Rio from all the research I’ve done," he added.
"Hopefully I’ll get the chance to go and have a look myself at some point throughout the year but the Olympic games are definitely on the radar so firstly I have to make selection and once we’re there we’ll have a formidable Australian to make an impact on the race.”