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Gerrans’ spring classics campaign ‘up in the air’

A crash in Saturday's Strade Bianche has jeaparodized Simon Gerrans' plans to defend his Liège title

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LIDO DI CAMAIORE, Italy (VN) — It’s touch-and-go if Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) will be able to defend his Liège-Bastogne-Liège title next month.

The Australian suffered a fracture on the radial head of his arm in a heavy crash in Saturday’s Strade Bianche, and team officials said his spring classics program might be in danger.

Orica-GreenEdge sport director Matt White said the team is crossing its fingers that Gerrans could return as soon as the Volta a Catalunya at the end of March, but insist it’s still too early to say if that’s possible.

“A few things have to happen, but it’s still in the cards that he could race Volta a Catalunya,” White told VeloNews. “The spring classics are up in the air in the moment right now, that’s for sure.”

Gerrans, 34, scored arguably the biggest win of his career last year at Liège, becoming the first Australian to win the Belgian monument. After a season full of highs and lows that included crashing out of the Tour de France, followed by big wins at the Canadian WorldTour races and second at the world championships, Gerrans broke his collarbone in an off-season mountain bike training ride.

That prevented him from defending his Santos Tour Down Under crown in January, but he spent several weeks training in South Africa to prepare for his season debut at Strade Bianche, only to see bad luck strike again.

“Fitness-wise, he was fine, he was in good form after training in South Africa, and he was very motivated to return to racing,” White said. “He went down on both hands, got back up, and started racing, and then he said, ‘Ooh, that’s not good.’ It was bad luck, really.”

Gerrans was already planning on not racing Milano-Sanremo, a race he won in 2012, so the team is hopeful he might be able to return in time to contest the Ardennes classics. Gerrans was also third in last year’s Amstel Gold Race.

“‘Gerro’ will be off the road until next Wednesday, and then he will get more X-rays, and we can make some decisions,” White said. “We want to get him back to racing as soon as possible, but we also have to think about his long-term health.”

White said Gerrans is the anchor of Orica-GreenEdge’s classics program, and the team will be forced to make major adjustments if he’s unable to race.

“[Michael] Matthews was already going to be our guy for Milano-Sanremo,” White said. “In a worst-case scenario, and ‘Gerro’ is not ready for the Ardennes, Matthews would be our top candidate, especially for Amstel Gold. … We’ve got a sort of ‘off-the-radar’ group for the northern classics, with [Mathew] Hayman and [Jens] Keukeleire, they’re certainly not favorites, but we’ve got a group of competitive young riders. We hope to be solid in the spring classics.”