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SANREMO, Italy (VN) — Australian Simon Gerrans missed the national championships and his country’s biggest stage race, the Tour Down Under, and, following another crash, suffered through the Ardennes classics where he had won Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year. The entire 2015 season looked like it could go down the drain, at least until Saturday in Sanremo.
Team Orica-GreenEdge came and delivered for Gerrans in the stage 1 time trial of the Giro d’Italia. The Australian team, with its win last year in Belfast and wins like the one in the 2013 Tour de France in Nice, was one of the favorites for the 17.6-kilometer stage along the bike path edging along the Italian Riviera.
The team rode at 54.34 kilometers per hour in 19:26 minutes to win over Tinkoff-Saxo by seven seconds. Gerrans crossed the line first for the pink jersey and began to forget about his crashes that interrupted his season.
“It was clearly a fantastic effort by the team and it’s an honor to take the pink jersey,” Gerrans said.
“It’s a massive honor to win the maglia rosa, but like all my victories, they are due to great teammates. I should chop the front half of this jersey into nine pieces, to give it to the guys on the team, and the back into 50 pieces, for everyone who supports the team.”
Gerrans broke his collarbone mountain biking near Melbourne at the start of the year and had to miss the championships and the Tour Down Under, which he had won the year before. He came back in the Strade Bianche in March, but crashed and fractured his elbow.
He was already going to be behind for the Ardennes Classics, but the crash in the Italian race meant that he had no chance of trying to defend his title. He rode the País Vasco stage race, the Ardennes, and the Tour de Romandie, pointing ahead instead of looking behind. The Giro was his chance to turn the tide in his favor.
“It wouldn’t even matter who crossed the line first today in Sanremo,” Gerrans said. “It wasn’t even brought up until the meeting today, when our director Matt White said I should cross the line in front.
“He had two reasons for this: the time trial strong guys had to pull first and pull off and leave the other guys up who have a chance of winning stages in the next days. To be honest, I think Mike Matthews has the best chance to do so. The goal is going to be to keep the jersey within the team for the next few days.”
The Giro already looks similar to 2014. Orica won the time trial in Belfast and put Canadian Svein Tuft in pink. The next day, Matthews placed highly enough to take over the top spot in the GC. He held on to it for six days.
None of the Orica-GreenEdge riders will be in pink on the final day of the Giro d’Italia in Milan on May 31. That jersey is likely destined to climbers like Spaniard Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Australian Richie Porte (Sky), Colombian Rigoberto Urán (Etixx-Quick-Step), and Italian Fabio Aru (Astana).
Contador came out on top in the first battle. His Tinkoff-Saxo team pushed Orica-GreenEdge to the limit, slotting in just seven seconds slower. What meant more to Contador, however, was putting time into his direct rivals for the final classification.
Astana placed third at 13 seconds back with Etixx fourth at 19 seconds and, the biggest loser out of the favorites, Richie Porte’s Sky team came in ninth at 27 seconds.
Discounted with Contador’s time, the favorites classification now reads: 1) Contador, 2) Aru at six seconds, 3) Urán 12 seconds, and 4) Porte 20 seconds.
“You always want to win, but the objective is to think about the GC,” Contador explained.
“We came out well from the first stage … It’s not so much to our other riders, only six seconds to Astana, but I felt good. Good weather, a good result, what else could you ask for?”
Aru added, “There are still 20 stages ahead. There are many climbs to come, many roads to have fun on and to take advantage of.”