PEZ sat down for a quick chat with AG2R’s Simon Gerrans at the recent Surfers Paradise International where we talked about his season 2006, his future and life on a French ProTour team as a young Aussie.
Simon Gerrans is a likeable 26 year old Australian who has just finished his 2nd year in the pro ranks with AG2R and is looking forward to a promising future ahead. Gerrans was first recruited to the sport by ex pro, Phil Anderson a rider that many believe is Australia’s greatest ever cyclist. The former yellow jersey wearing, Tour de France stage winner obviously saw great things in the young Gerrans and has encouraged him throughout his short but highly successful career.
This year Gerrans started well winning the Tour Down Under before a bad collarbone break in the following race, the GP d’Ouverture almost ruined his chances for a 2nd Tour de France start. Gerrans bounced back though, racing the Tour strongly and then finishing the season just how he started, with another strong GC win – this time in the Herald Sun Tour.
PEZ: You had an incredible start to the season this year with a win in South Australia at the Tour Down Under.
Gerrans: Oh yeah I was rapt with the way it started, it was the very next race where it all went pear shaped though. Yeah the aim was to start the year off in good shape and try and build up for some of the early season stuff in Europe, but unfortunately it didn’t quite go to plan with the break and then sickness.
PEZ: You came back superbly for the Tour de France though…
Gerrans: Yeah the comeback for the Tour was a bit of a last minute thing, I basically did the Tour de France on only two months preparation and I came up really good for the first couple of weeks and then I just kind of faded in the last week which was to be expected.
PEZ: Incredible Tour for AG2R I thought, especially after the troubles at the start in losing Mancebo from the squad. A stage win with Calzati and Dessel in yellow, it seemed like you were doing a mountain of work.
Gerrans: Yeah it was a great Tour to be part of such a successful squad. Everyone was just riding on such a high the whole Tour because the team was going so well. I think we exceeded all expectations and just really shocked everyone and I rate this year’s Tour de France much better than last year’s even though I didn’t get any results personally.
PEZ: The day in the mountains with Dessel in yellow – it seemed that you and Calzati never got off the front?
Gerrans: Yeah it was a great day, Calzati and I rode the peloton down to about 40 riders which was great. Everyone lifts when you have the yellow jersey in the team and you’ve got guys that are doing so well.
PEZ: What’s it like in the mountains when you’ve worked all day long in the mountains on the front, you then say au revoir to the peloton and are just hanging in to make the time limit at the finish?
Gerrans: Well that day I actually finished with Pereiro! He lost a whole heap of time that day and it was only until the 2nd last hill of the day that I lost the front group myself. I just then rode in how I could and finished in front of the gruppetto with heaps of time within the time limit.
PEZ: A bit of an unexpected season I guess with your accident then sickness, working for the yellow jersey in the Tour and then you finished the season superbly with a victory in the Sun tour.
Gerrans: Yeah it was great to finish the season on a high and it then puts the whole season into a better frame of mind, you forget about the bad times this year. The Jayco Herald Sun Tour being sort of my home town race was pretty special to me, we put together a great team and they were behind me the whole race so it was a huge thrill to win.
PEZ: What’s your program been since your win at the Sun Tour?
Gerrans: I pretty much had a break of a little over a month and since then I’ve just been getting back into training again.
PEZ: Will you be trying to defend your title at the Tour Down Under next year?
Gerrans: Yep, I’ll be doing both the nationals and the Tour Down Under in January before heading back to Europe.
PEZ: I’ve been speaking to a few of the boys lately, Robbie (McEwen) and Whitey (Matt White) and they’ve been talking down their chances at the Nationals. What about yourself – are you looking at having a good crack at them?
Gerrans: I certainly hope to have some good results in early season races in Europe so to get those results early on in the season in Europe you’ve got to be in good shape right from the start. I’m not sure if I’ll be in winning form but I’ll be in a pretty good position so I hope to do well.
PEZ: Mate, the way your career seems to be shaping up at this point you look like you are best suited to the shorter one week stage races. Is that a fair analysis?
Gerrans: Yeah I think the shorter stage races are my thing and hopefully I can shape into more the hillier classics as well. I’d like to really do well in the Ardennes classics and I think that they would suit my strengths.
PEZ: You’ve been full time in the Pro ranks now since 2005 and have experienced some great results with wins at the Tour Down Under, Sun Tour and the Tour du Finestre in France. Is there any one moment of your racing career that has stood out as a real highlight so far?
Gerrans: Umm, I think maybe racing my first Tour de France in 2005. That’s sort of what you aspire to do once you turn professional and I did it straight away. That was really special to me and along with my first professional win at the Tour du Finestre it really put my name up there as an up and coming rider so that was a real highlight for me as well.
PEZ: Mate, I ran into your mentor, Phil Anderson on the Col du Glandon at the Tour de France this year, do you still have a lot to do with him?
Gerrans: Yeah, I still keep in touch with Phil a bit and try and get down to his place for a bit of training each summer. So Phil and I are still good mates but unfortunately we don’t have as much to do with each other now cause our schedules don’t always work out. We’re on the other side of the world these days but when he does come over for the Tour de France we always catch up and it’s good.
PEZ: Sometimes English speaking riders can struggle adapting to riding in a foreign team, how have you adapted to the French lifestyle in a French team?
Gerrans: I love it. I’m racing with a great group of guys, they really helped me out and were patient with me when I was first learning French and now I’m quite comfortable speaking French and hanging out with them and they’re a fantastic group of guys – I still keep in touch with them even when I’m in Australia over the off season.
PEZ: So I guess I should have conducted this interview in French then?
Gerrans: Yeah (Laughing) I guess so mate.
PEZ: Thanks for your time and best of luck for season 2007!
Gerrans: Thanks mate.
For more on Simon Gerrans check out his website .