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Gerrans poised to help Porte in Tour de France bid

Simon Gerrans, 37, said his role on BMC Racing will be to help Richie Porte try to win the Tour de France this summer.

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One of the biggest surprises of the 2018 transfer season was Simon Gerrans’s move from GreenEdge to BMC Racing. In fact, almost no one saw it coming.

The rumor going around the peloton was that Gerrans was going to retire at this month’s Santos Tour Down Under. A phone call last summer changed those retirement plans.

“That was very much a rumor,” Gerrans told VeloNews of the Down Under retirement party. “I don’t know who pulled that one out of where. Rumors run rife when they have nothing else to do.”

At 37, Gerrans is still revving up to go in what will be his 15th professional season. His move to BMC Racing on a one-year deal came thanks to his long-running friendship with team captain Richie Porte.

It was the Tasmanian who first approached Gerrans, one of the most veteran riders in the Australian peloton. Porte wanted a steady hand in his bid to become Australia’s second Tour de France winner.

“I think we caught a lot of people by surprise. Not many people saw it coming,” Gerrans said. “I started contact with Richie. He scoped me out, and I said I’d love to join.”

Last summer, Porte reached out to Gerrans because he knew that his compatriot, a veteran of 11 Tours de France, could come in very handy. Porte made the call when he was recovering from his horrific Tour crash, and Gerrans was at home considering his future after being left off Orica-Scott’s Tour squad for 2017.

Gerrans was even considering retirement after the team and Gerrans decided to move on following the 2017 season. Porte’s call came at the right time.

“Richie saw me as someone with a bit of experience who would be a real asset to him,” Gerrans said. “He was looking for a road captain he could trust and rely on. I was more honored than anything else to be offered that role.”

Porte approached BMC Racing’s brass, and they agreed Gerrans would be a welcome addition.

“He was the first person in the entire organization who reached out to me. From then on, he spoke to team management, and they were on board quickly,” Gerrans said. “We were speaking for a few weeks, and I don’t think too many people seemed to have found out about it until they made the announcement.”

While Gerrans’s move to BMC might have been unexpected, it makes sense. The team is losing an experienced batch of team riders, such as Manuel Quinziato, Daniel Oss, Amaël Moinard, and Samuel Sánchez to a mix of retirements, trades, and, with the case of Sánchez, a doping positive. BMC also reduced its roster from 29 to 24 riders, so every position on the team is essential.

Gerrans said his racing calendar will largely mirror Porte’s as the team builds toward the 2018 Tour. Though he’s a four-time winner of the Tour Down Under, Gerrans said he will be riding to help Porte defend his title at the 20th anniversary of Australia’s top stage race.

Over the past few seasons, Gerrans was already transitioning into a road captain’s role at GreenEdge, a team that was nurturing such talent as the Yates brothers and Esteban Chaves in the grand tours. As a winner of Milano-Sanremo and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Gerrans will still get a few chances to ride for his results this season.

“The team very much would like me to target a few races. I am racing at a high level, and the team thinks I have some races left in me. That’s a real compliment,” he said. “When the opportunities arise, and the course is right for me, I’ll do everything I can do to get a result.”

Gerrans has seen it all during his career. He’s ridden with a French team (Ag2r La Mondiale) as well as three startup teams, with Cervélo, Sky, and GreenEdge. He said it’s been easy to settle into an established team like BMC Racing.

Now all he has to do is prove his worth and his spot on what will be a highly selective Tour de France roster, now reduced to eight riders for 2018.

As for the future, Gerrans isn’t looking too far into the crystal ball.

“I am 37, and I am taking it year by year. We’ll see how this year unfolds before making any decisions about my future,” he said. “I’m real excited about trying to help Richie win the Tour.”