Following on from Orica-BikeExchange's best season to date since its 2012 debut into the WorldTour peloton, a refreshed and rested Simon Gerrans is ready for a big Australian summer. While the team celebrated two monument victories, two grand tour overall podium results, a classification jersey at the Tour de France along with several other wins, the 2016 season wasn't as successful for Gerrans with the 36-year-old aiming to get back to his best on home soil next month.
"I finished my season after the Tour of Spain so I had a good break. I had it nice and early with a good amount of time off the bike and started my pre-season nice and early. I feel like I am right on track at this stage preparation wise for a good summer," Gerrans told Cyclingnews ahead of the Australian 'summer of cycling'.
Although Gerrans didn't enjoy great personal success in 2016, he revelled in the team's success explaining the rise of the young riders was a particularly pleasing facet.
"Without question, it was the team's most successful to date and that has been many years in the making," he said of the year. "What was the best thing from the team perspective was that we had so many different riders winning and a few young guys who have been with the team from neo-pros have really risen right to the top and are winning at the highest level. It's an exciting time for the team to see this talent that we signed a few years so, really come to the forefront and do it so quickly.
"It was also really good to see the team winning right from the start of the season through to the end so we had a good consistent year as well."
Having made his Olympics debut in London four years ago, Gerrans was aiming to again represent his country at the Rio Olympic Games in August. A gust of wind on stage 12 of the Tour de France took out Gerrans' front wheel and left him with a broken collarbone that not only ended his Tour, but also ended his Olympic dream.
"For myself personally, it was a bit of an up and down season again obviously," said Gerrans in reference to his year and the 2015 season that featured several broken bones. "It started out going really well by winning Tour Down Under again then my Ardennes preparation was looking really good with some promising results in the Basque Country but then the Ardennes were a bit of a disappointment and then I had some bad luck at the Tour de France. Following that, it was just getting back on my bike and trying to get back racing before the end of the year."
2016 was the fifth time that Gerrans lined up for the Vuelta in his career with the Spanish grand tour becoming a key end of season race to build for the new year in recent years. Gerrans' 2014 season, in which he finished the year ranked third on the UCI WorldTour rankings, was built on the back of the 2013 Vuelta and Gerrans is hoping that the Vuelta can again be a launch pad.
"It was great to finish off with the Vuelta and I have found in the last few couple of years it's been good to finish with the Vuelta, particularly as I cut my Tour de France short for the last two years," said Gerrans, who missed the Tour last year to race the Giro where he wore the leader's pink jersey. "It was good to get a big load in from a physical perspective at the end of the year and finish the year on a really positive note with the team doing so well in the Vuelta."
The 68 race days of the 2016 season was Gerrans' longest since 2013 when he clocked up 78 days in the saddle. With his off-season over and training for the new year in full swing, Gerrans' first major objective of 2016 is just over month away at the Australian national championships on January 8. A two-time winner of the Buninyong course, Gerrans will be one the favourites for the yellow and green jersey as he aims to start his season on the best possible note.
"I'll aim for that whole January period and start off with the national titles," he said. "It's a period of the year in which I have had great success in the past, it is really important to the team and I see it as a good opportunity put in a good showing on Australian soil and I think it creates a really good momentum for the team and myself for the season to come."