PONFERRADA, Spain (AFP) — Simon Gerrans may have missed out on the world champion’s rainbow jersey, but he promised that the three world championship medallists would continue battling in one-day classics over the years to come.
Australia’s Gerrans was beaten into second in Ponferrada, Spain by Poland’s first-ever world champion, Michal Kwiatkowski, while Spaniard Alejandro Valverde came third.
What was significant about that result was that they were the three main protagonists back in April during the 2014 Ardennes classics.
Gerrans won Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Valverde was second in that but won La Fleche Wallonne, and Kwiatkowski was third in both races.
All three also secured top-five finishes at the Amstel Gold.
Kwiatkowski, 24, has yet to win a one-day classic, but he is tipped by many to break through soon.
Gerrans and Valverde may both be 34-years-old but have recently signed new contracts with Orica-GreenEdge and Movistar respectively, and expect to competing for more honors in the years to come.
“Obviously Michal has a few more years ahead of him than Alejandro and I,” said Gerrans, who won another spring classic, Milano-Sanremo, in 2012.
“The three of us have had some great battles this year, but Alejandro has renewed his contract for three years and I’ve done the same thing so I think we’ll have a few more great battles in the years to come.”
Valverde said he certainly wasn’t planning on moving over for the younger generation just yet.
“I’ve signed for the team for another three years. I’ll always fight and keep going with ambition,” said Valverde, a double winner of Liege, Fleche, and the Clásica de San Sebastián.
“Kwiatkowski’s a great rider, I told him that before the race and again after the race. He’s tactically very strong; he has great potential; he’s a dangerous rider.
“He’s younger than us and, as Simon said, he’ll have more opportunities, but I think we’ll still be around for a lot longer to make things hard for him.”
Kwiatkowski said he may one day reassess his objectives and focus on the grand tours — he was 11th at the Tour de France in his debut in 2013 — but for the moment he is targeting success in the one-day Classics.
Having had an excellent start to the year, winning the Tour of Algarve and finishing second in the Tour of the Basque Country before his three top-five finishes at the Ardennes Classics, he went off the boil in the middle part of the season, culminating in a disappointing 28th-place finish at the Tour.
But the young Pole said it was normal for him to get tired at around that time, and all he needed was some rest to come back refreshed for his tilt at the world title.
“When you’re 24 and the season is so long, starting racing in January and finishing in October, it’s difficult to find straight away the perfect race program for your body,” he said.
“But I’m in the best team [Omega Pharma-Quick Step] to find my way. I made such a step forward in the classics, that’s what I learnt from this year.
“I still cannot say what my possibilities are in grand tours but it’s not really the time to check myself in grand tours because being a grand tour rider needs a lot of experience, and you need to sacrifice the rest of the races.
“But for the moment I like the classics and I still [have time] to think about my future.”