Gerrans hopes to springboard from Quebec into world title

Aussie champ wants to trade in green and yellow for rainbow stripes on the Cauberg in two weeks

QUEBEC CITY, Canada (VN) — Last night when VeloNews asked Orica-GreenEdge rider Matt Goss about his chances of winning the 2012 Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec City, the Tasmanian shook his head and said it wouldn’t be him.

“I haven’t done this race before,” he said, “and I think to be honest, Simon Gerrans is a more likely candidate.”

Mentioning 32-year-old Gerran’s second-place last month to Luis León Sanchez (Rabobank) at the hilly Clásica San Sebastián, Goss added, “I think he’s got a real possibility to get some great results here.”

Great results, indeed.

Goss’s teammate Gerrans proved him right. After clawing his way up to a storming Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) on the race’s final pitches, through roaring crowds that lined the stone-walled streets of Québec, the Aussie national champion’s win confirmed that he is on the mark for the world championships later this month.

Gerrans can win around the calendar. He kicked off the season by taking out the Australian national road race title in GreenEdge’s first race, then won the Tour Down Under and took March’s Milan-San Remo over Fabian Cancellara and Vincenzo Nibali.

Asked how it feels to still be holding up the flowers on the top step nine months later, he said that he has focused on the block of late summer and early fall events like San Sebastián and the Québec/Montréal weekend since those early successes.

“They suit me quite well,” said Gerrans.

After bridging up to the attacking Van Avermaet, Gerrans said the two couldn’t play cat and mouse games inside the final kilometer because they knew the peloton, led by always-lethal Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), was bearing down on them like one of the late summer hurricanes that sometimes buzzsaw this part of Canada.

“(It) was really nerve-wracking,” said Gerrans. “We couldn’t really slow down too much before we sprinted for the line.

“We had our work cut out to hold Peter off and the rest of the peloton. Full credit to Greg, who rode really strong.”

Gerran’s next big goal of course is the world championship road race, another event that suits him well. Held later this month on similar roads to the Amstel Gold Race in the Limburg region of the Netherlands, the finish on the Cauberg climb has a similar profile to that of Québec: a steep pitch at the bottom of the climb to provoke bold attacks like the one Van Avermaet threw down Friday, and then a gentler climb and eventually a nearly 1km slight downhill finishing straight onto farm fields above Valkenburg.

Both courses can reward the strong and patient. Gerrans finished third at Amstel Gold in 2011 behind an unbeatable Philippe Gilbert and Joaquim Rodríguez, and is one of the most explosive riders in the world on a short, sharp climb like the Cauberg. Speaking of his chances at the worlds, Gerrans said he is hungry for the title.

“Like I said, I’ve put a lot of emphasis on being in good shape for the last part of the season. Starting from the Olympic Games, I had a fantastic racing program and obviously these races here in Canada were part of my goals for the year,” he said. “The real objective for the last part of the season is the world championships, so I’m really happy with how my form is coming along.”

Friday’s win will see Gerrans ride into the Netherlands on the short list of favorites to win and put rainbow stripes over the top of his green and yellow Australian champion’s jersey.