VALKENBURG, Netherlands (VN) — Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) poured it on in Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race to snag third and confirm he’s on top form for Ardennes week.
The Australian told VeloNews that he would skip Wednesday’s Flèche Wallonne to return Sunday for a clean run at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“I might get fresh for a few days and come back for Liège,” Gerrans told VeloNews at the finish line. “I am satisfied because the form is there.
“We did everything we could. Maybe I could have run second, but in that situation, that’s the best I could have done, so I am happy with that.”
Gerrans roars into this year’s Ardennes week riding on better form than last year.
Following his breakthrough victory in last year’s Milano-Sanremo, Gerrans fell flat in the Ardennes, riding to 20th in Amstel Gold and 19th in Liège.
Gerrans bounced back to confirm he’s one of the best one-day racers in the pack, with second at the Clásica San Sebastián, fourth at GP de Montréal and victory at GP de Quebec.
After falling ill at this year’s Paris-Nice and entering Milano-Sanremo with less-than-ideal fitness, Gerrans regained his kick just in time for the Ardennes, with stage wins at the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour of the Basque Country in Spain.
“Simon showed again he’s on that big level, right there with [Philip] Gilbert, [Peter] Sagan, [Alejandro] Valverde — he’s right there with the best. He’s playing with the big boys and there’s nothing to say,” said Orica-GreenEdge sport director Lorenzo Lepage.
“Last year, the goals were these races, but then he won Milano-Sanremo, and that changed things and he lost a bit of focus. He showed today he’s ready.”
Orica rode a tactically sound race, with the team centered on protecting Gerrans to bring it down to the Cauberg. It put Pieter Weening into a late break that took pressure off the team and the Dutchman managed to hang on to finish sixth.
Simon Clark and Daryl Impey both took big digs to position Gerrans for the final push up the Cauberg.
When Gilbert went, Gerrans was trailing in his slipstream to make sure the world champion didn’t ride away.
The problem, of course, was that Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) was gone, and he wasn’t coming back.
“Philippe went and he got a bit of a gap. Valverde came across and he sat on my wheel and tried to jump me. I was able to grab his wheel and it together with Gilbert with a kilometer to go. It was cat and mouse from there,” Gerrans said.
“Roman was gone with all money. We could see with a kilometer to go that we couldn’t catch him.”
Gerrans will return to his home base in Monaco to prepare for Liège, a race that’s ideal for his style of racing.
The veteran Aussie is poised for a big ride in Liège. Since 2009, when he was a career-best sixth, he’s not finished beyond the top 20.
“The team showed today we are strong,” Lepage said. “We will continue all week like this. We will have the numbers in the finale.”