VITORIA, Spain (VN) — Simon Gerrans had plenty of reason to smile at the finish line of Tuesday’s second stage at the Vuelta a País Vasco.
Despite his losing the race leader’s jersey, based on placement, Orica-GreenEdge teammate Daryl Impey kicked to victory to make it two in a row for the Australian team in the hilly Basque Country.
“It all went to plan in the end. We got together in the final and Daryl was pretty motivated to win here after last year,” Gerrans told VeloNews. “We worked to set him up and it worked out perfectly.”
Gerrans sacrificed any chance at defending the leader’s jersey to help pull Impey into position in the closing kilometer. Even though he crossed with the same time as the winner, he was knocked down to seventh behind new leader Francesco Gavazzi (Astana).
More important for Gerrans, however, is his improving form ahead of the Ardennes classics.
Earlier this season, he was knocked back with allergies at the Tour Down Under, a race he won in 2012. Then a cold forced him to withdraw from Paris-Nice; he had to shelve his GC aspirations at both races.
He kept plugging away, taking a stage win up Old Willunga Hill in Down Under and then winning a stage at the Volta a Catalunya last month after falling short of defending his title at Milano-Sanremo in horrid conditions in Italy.
His victory in Monday’s opening stage at the 53rd Basque Country tour is his third of the year and buoys his confidence ahead of the spring classics.
“It’s all coming together nicely before the Ardennes,” Gerrans continued. “These are some of the hardest races of the world. It’s nice to be able to knock off some wins.”
Despite his surprise win in last year’s Sanremo, it’s the hilly Ardennes classics that are better suited for the Australian puncheur.
“The Ardennes are ideal races for my style of racing,” Gerrans said. “It’s funny, I’ve done consistently better at Liège, but I think it’s Amstel Gold that is the best for me.”
Gerrans has punched into the top-20 consistently at the Ardennes classics, with third at the 2011 Amstel Gold, sixth at the 2009 Liège and eighth at the 2008 Flèche Wallonne.
The 32-year-old Gerrans will lead a newly confident Orica-GreenEdge, which has come fast out of the gates, racking up 13 wins with eight riders so far on the 2013 season.
That’s in marked contrast to the team’s inaugural 2012 season, when Gerrans accounted for three of the team’s eight wins up to this point of the calendar last year.
For Gerrans, it’s all about staying healthy and avoiding a crash between now and the start of the Ardennes classics in less than two weeks.
“The form is coming up nicely and it gives my teammates confidence as well,” he said. “Hopefully we’re on track.”