Gerrans grabs silver in road race
29 September 2014
Victorian Simon Gerrans’ capped a stellar year for himself and a fantastic week for Australia with a nail-biting silver medal in the 258km elite men’s road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Ponferrada, Spain.
Poland's Michal Kwiatkowski held on by a couple of bike lengths at the end of the 258km race to take gold over Gerrans, with Alejandro Valverde (Spain) taking third.
It was Australia’s fifth medal in the event's professional era, with Gerrans joining 2009 champion Cadel Evans, plus silver medallists Robbie McEwen (2002) and Matt Goss (2011), plus 2010 bronze medallist Allan Davis as Australian podium finishers.
It was Australia’s sixth medal of the week, adding to the gold won by Campbell Flakemore (U23 time trial) and Macey Stewart (Under 19 time trial), silver to Caleb Ewan (U23 road race) and bronze to both Anna-Leeza Hull and Michael Storer (Under 19 time trial).
“Happy with the result, but at the same time just slightly disappointed," said Gerrans. “I raced a good race, I had fantastic support from Aussie team mates as usual. I can’t thank them enough.”
“It has been a fantastic world championships for Australia. 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.”
Overcast sky and rain greeted the 204 riders on the opening lap of 14 laps of the 18.2km course for the elite men’s road race, with four rider break containing Matija Kvasina (CRO), Carlos Quintero (COL), Zydrunas Savickas (LTU) and Oleksandr Polivoda (UKR) forming on lap one.
The advantage reached a maximum of just over 15 minutes after four laps before the Polish team came to the front and starting setting a steady pace.
The gap had
been reduced to four minutes by lap ten, with nations grouping and moving
forward causing an increase in speed. Italy moved to the front and the pace
increased further, with Australians Rohan Dennis and Heinrich Haussler losing
contact with the peloton.
The pace really picked up on the final four laps which were littered with attacks.
A dangerous group of 11 broke away, with Australians Mat Hayman, Adam Hansen and Rory Sutherland immediately going to work on the front to ensure it would come back together, while Simon Clarke covered all the moves on the final two laps.
towards the final climb of the race four riders Vasil Kiryienka (BLR)
Alessandro De Marchi (ITA) Cyril Gautier (FRA) and Michael Valgren Andersen
(DEN) had a slight advantage.
However, a daring attack by Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) on the descent saw him join up with the leaders and continue to ride on solo.
The remaining peloton sensed the danger with a flurry of attacks by the favourites. Simon Gerrans followed a move with Alejandro Valverde (ESP) and were joined by Matti Breschel (DEN), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Tony Gallopin (FRA) and Philippe Gilbert (BEL).
Over the top of the final climb, the Gerrans group was nine seconds behind as they attempted to chase Kwiatkowski down, however the Polish rider had just enough of an advantage as Gerrans was unable to reel him in.
Kwiatkowski held on by a couple of bike lengths to claim gold ahead of Gerrans, with Alejandro Valverde (Spain) taking third.
“When Michal (Kwiatkowski) 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 of final climb, it looked like I had the right group, but just couldn’t bring in the gap.
“For myself I followed our plan and we executed it as a team right from the start.
“At end of day, I was just beaten by better rider,” Gerrans added.
Gerrans is the only Australian cyclist to have claimed a stage victory at all three Grand Tours, having also claimed the yellow jersey at the Tour de France in 2013.
In 2014 alone, he claimed the National title and Tour Down Under victory, the Liège–Bastogne–Liège and he became the first rider to win the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and Montreal back-to-back in the same year.
“2014 has been one heck of a season for me,” Gerrans 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.”
Head Coach Brad McGee revealed mixed emotions after Gerrans' silver.
"We're crying and smiling at the same time," he said. "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."