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He finished just one second behind Michal Kwiatkowski, one second off the elite world road race title, but Simon Gerrans has said that he has accepted the outcome of Sunday’s race.
Gerrans was quickest out of the chase group which raced in behind the Polish victor, and might have won had that cluster of riders not shown hesitancy in the final. He’ll no doubt play things out in his mind for days to come, but the Liège-Bastogne-Liège champion knows that the gold medal was well earned.
“Happy with the result, but at the same time just slightly disappointed,” said Gerrans after the dust had settled. “I raced a good race, I had fantastic support from Aussie team mates as usual. I can’t thank them enough. At the end of day, I was just beaten by a better rider.”
The Australian team rode well during the event, seeking to set up either Gerrans or, if things came down to a bigger group, Michael Matthews for the win.
As expected, the final climb proved crucial and the elder of the two riders was where he needed to be. The only problem was that Kwiatkowski had made a brave, brilliant move before that final ascent, jumping out the peloton, bridging across to a small break and then blasting right by.
It was the crucial moment in the race. While he could still have been hauled back, the lack of cooperation shown in the chase group was enough for him to hold on and scoop the rainbow jersey.
“When Michal went over the top with the advantage he did, we knew it would be difficult to catch him,” said Gerrans. “And then with a kilometre to go, we knew we were chasing for the minor placings. Attacking off the final climb, it looked like I had the right group, but just couldn’t bring in the gap.”
His silver medal follows on from Cadel Evans’ gold in the 2009 event, and puts Gerrans in the same category as previous runners-up Robbie McEwen (2002) and Matt Goss (2011). The quintet of medal winners is completely by 2010 third-place finisher Allan Davis.
It’s not quite the result that Gerrans wanted, but he knows he and the team gave it a good shot. “For myself I followed our plan, and we executed it as a team right from the start,” he said.
Sunday’s result ended what was a very solid Australian campaign, and one which netted six medals. The best results were the gold medals taken by the Under 23 time trial winner Campbell Flakemore and junior women’s TT victor Macey Stewart. Gerrans’ silver medal performance was matched by the Under 23 runner-up slot by Caleb Ewan, and sits just ahead the bronze medals earned by Anna-Leeza Hull and Michael Storer in the junior time trials.
“It has been a fantastic world championships for Australia,” Gerrans reflected. “We are in a very healthy position. With the results from our younger guys and girls, it shows the future is bright is bright for Australia.”
Cycling Australia’s head coach Brad McGee said the result brought mixed emotions. “We’re crying and smiling at the same time,” he admitted. “How could you not be proud of Simon and all the boys’ efforts today?
“They did everything needed to win but were out-jumped by a superb performance from Kwiatkowski. You can’t be disappointed – but again the victory was right there in front of us.”
Gerrans is now finishing up his season, having been in action since the start of the year. He started things off with victory in the national road race championships and Santos Tour Down Under in January, then went on to win Liège–Bastogne–Liège, the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal.
Taking the world title would have been the biggest result of his career, but he knows that he has had a superb year nonetheless. “2014 has been one heck of a season for me,” he said. “It started with victories at the very beginning of the season and continued through, and its great to at least cap it off with silver here. All in all, a great season.”