Simon Gerrans is the latest big name rider announced to start the 2017 Herald Sun Tour, joining ORICA-BikeExchange teammate Esteban Chaves and defending champion Chris Froome in a field that will be tested on a new mountainous course.
The two-time winner of the Herald Sun Tour will be trying to prevent the reigning Tour de France champion’s own bid to win the race for a second consecutive time.
After fracturing his collarbone in a crash during the 12th stage of the 2016 Tour de France the 36-year-old was forced to withdraw from competing at the Rio Olympics following surgery.
He returned to the roads at the Vuelta a Espana and then took an extended break from training at his home in Andorra before starting pre-season training to be ready for the Australian summer.
The 64th edition of Australia’s oldest stage race, which runs from Wednesday 1st – Sunday 5th, will have three global cycling stars in a climbing duel for the first time, with a new final stage at Kinglake following a tough Falls Creek stage finish as the features of the revamped 2017 route.
Australia is a happy hunting ground for Gerrans who has won four Tour Down Under titles to go with his two Jayco Herald Sun Tour victories in 2005 and 2006, in fact his first professional win came at the 2004 Sun Tour, in his home town of Mansfield.
“It’s a race I used to skip school to watch when I was growing up, so it’s important to me and it’s a race I always have tried to support when I can," Gerrans said.
“I haven't done it in a couple of years, but it's a race that I grew up watching as a kid and a race I really aspired to win really early in my career.”
Gerrans said racing around the roads of Victoria was a big factor in returning to the race for the first time since 2014.
“I’m just excited to get back racing in Victoria again. The race is also growing in strength and popularity and I'm also going to have a big January. By the time I string the nationals, Down Under and Cadel's race together I should be in good shape by the time the Sun Tour comes around that's for sure."
Gerrans is usually in it to win it, but is also realistic when it comes to his chances in the 2017 edition on a difficult course against two of the best climbers in the world.
“I'll never say it's not possible to win because you never know how the race will unfold, but looking at the course I think it's going to be a two-rider race to be very honest with you.
"And fortunately, one of those riders is going to be in my team."
Gerrans was full of praise on the course, which includes plenty of familiar tarmac around regional Victoria.
"I've done many hours of training throughout my career up around Bright, Tawonga Gap, Falls Creek kind of area. I think the race will be blown wide apart from day one and I think we'll have a very good idea who is going to win at the end of the first stage."
"I'm raring to go for 2017 and it's hard to believe how many years as a pro I've got under the belt now because I'm just as motivated now as I ever was,” Gerrans added.
A new course for the 2017 Herald Sun Tour has been announced by race director John Trevorrow that will feature a summit finish for Froome, Chaves and Gerrans to showcase their elite climbing skills in Victoria.
“It is sensational we can again offer the people of Melbourne and Victoria the chance to see the likes of Froome, Chaves and now Gerro charging through the streets of the city on a summer night, and then onto the roads around Victoria,” Trevorrow said.
“People said last year was the best edition of the Sun Tour ever, and I reckon they were right. But it’s going to be short-lived, because I reckon 2017 will be even better," Trevorrow enthused.
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