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Simon Gerrans is determined to turn around a crash-marred season of disappointment, broken bones and stolen goals at the Giro di Lombardia on Sunday.
The 35-year-old will enter the one-day race in northern Italy with the support of a crack Orica-GreenEdge squad, and on the back of a sixth place finish at the UCI Road World Championships last weekend.
It’s a favourable position Gerrans has not found himself in frequently this season with multiple crash-related injuries scuppering his chances or completely ruling the Australian out of major objectives.
“This year I’ve had so many setbacks that physically I haven’t had a massive workload so I think I’m probably, physically, as fresh as I’ve ever been at this point in the season,” Gerrans told CyclingTips.
“But obviously it’s been a very mentally fatiguing year having to deal with so many setbacks. It’s been a real exercise in resilience and a tough lesson but it could be a valuable one I’ve learnt.”
Gerrans has embodied the fall down seven times, get up eight proverb this year in a demonstration of toughness impressive even for the doggedly goal driven puncheur.
He missed the Tour Down Under in January due to a broken collarbone and wasn’t fully fit for the Ardennes Classics, normally his bread and butter, following a crash at Strade Bianche in March where he fractured his elbow.
The former Liege-Bastogne-Liege champion recouped and gave himself to something to work toward, adding the Giro d’Italia to his program in what proved to be a good move with the Orica-GreenEdge leader taking the first maglia rosa of the race.
“That’s been the story of my season actually, just working towards something,” he said.
“Coming back from injury is not a lot different to preparing for an objective. As long as you’ve got something to work towards it’s just a matter of following that process. It’s not quite the same as preparing to win big races but it’s an objective all the same and is how really I’ve approached this year over and over again.”
The welcome turn in fortune however came to a halt during the third stage of the Tour de France where Gerrans fractured his wrist in a mass pile-up and consequently abandoned.
“It’s not easy,” he continued. “I’ve had a lot of difficult moments in the season but I feel like I’m finishing in really good shape, so still hoping for a performance [this] weekend and then I’ll turn my focus onto 2016.”
At the world championships Gerrans weathered a different fight from younger national team-mate and silver medallist Michael Matthews, who later lamented what might have been if pair worked together in the final kilometres of the title race.
“He was vocally disappointed that he didn’t have sole leadership of the Australian team because that’s obviously what he wanted, but the fact is we really did have a team plan at the start of the and everyone really stuck to that plan,” Gerrans said. “He might not have been so happy about it but it was a plan that everyone agreed to at the beginning of the day so I think everyone should be pleased with how they raced.”
Gerrans personally took confidence from his sixth place, which was reward enough for his collective toil and a promising indicator ahead of this weekend.
“It’s really satisfying when you think a little over two months ago I was told by doctors that I wasn’t going to be riding a bike for the next three months,” he said of his Tour injury.
“The fact that I got a second opinion from another doctor and I was able to be back on my bike shortly after that, race the Vuelta and off the back of that line-up at the world championships and finish in a pretty select group, you know, that’s satisfying considering where I’ve come from.”
Gerrans will close his marred 2015 campaign with Lombardia and return from his Europe base in Monaco to Australia in time for a pre-season where he’ll apply the same work ethic.
“One thing I’ve become really good at this year is healing,” he said.
“I’m a pretty, I’m not going to say stubborn character but I’m very goal driven and I think this year has been a real testament to that. Every time I had setback, it really brought me down until I had an objective to work towards and a bit of a time frame. Once I have that then I’m generally right again so I think it’s just reaffirmed to me what really makes me click, and it’s that scenario.”