AUSTRALIAN cycling star Simon Gerrans has declared himself fit enough to reclaim the national crown in Buninyong.
Gerrans has been resting and preparing for a big summer after a fractured hip, sustained in a crash during the Tour of Spain in August, cut his season short.
The minor injury, a hairline fracture, kept Gerrans from contesting the UCI Road World Championships but ORICA-GreenEDGE team director Matt White says it might have really been a blessing in disguise.
Gerrans will arrive in Ballarat “in great shape” to launch a massive month ahead that will start with the Cycling Australia Road National Championships and include the Tour Down Under in South Australia and the Herald Sun Tour back in Victoria.
Working in Gerrans’ favour in Buninyong is a return to the shorter, sharper course he conquered in 2012 – more so perhaps than his ORICA-GreenEDGE teammate and defending champion Luke Durbridge, who relished an included flatter loop out to Navigators this year.
“Winning nationals in Ballarat is a very big goal for us as a team – the national championship jersey is a big prize and one we want one of our riders to wear in Europe,” White told The Courier.
“We’ve been on that (Buninyong) course in similar conditions for some time now.
“Those 18 laps are demanding and suits a seasoned European professional.
“There’s nearly 4000 metres of climbing in the second week of January – that’s a big day in the office and will certainly sort the men from the boys.”
Gerrans this year became the sixth Australian to pull on the famed yellow jersey as the Tour de France leader in July and now is hungry to hunt down the world champion colour jersey. Key to his plan is to top the podium in the men’s elite road race on January 12.
ORICA-GreenEDGE should be at full strength for the nationals, bringing Durbridge, criterium champion Cameron Meyer, Michael Matthews and Matthew Goss.
White said his team’s strength was depth – ORICA-GreenEDGE would bring about 10 riders, not as many as a team like Drapac, but with a number capable of winning national titles.
ORICA-GreenEDGE will be vying for a third consecutive men’s road race title.
The Cycling Australia Road National Championships start with time trials in Burrumbeet on Wednesday, January 8 in men’s and women’s elite and under-23 divisions.
Criteriums will hit Sturt Street on the Thursday evening with the women’s elite and under-23 and men’s under-23 road races in Buninyong on Saturday and the marquee men’s race on Sunday.
It will be the eighth consecutive year Ballarat has hosted the national championships.