Simon Gerrans Wins Milano-SanremoBack-to-Back Wins for Australia
Australian National Road Champion Simon Gerrans gave Australia back-to-back wins at Milano-Sanremo. Gerrans outsprinted Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) to take top honors at the first monument of the season. The elite trio formed on the ascent of the Poggio and maintained a narrow lead over a chasing field at the finish. Gerrans is the second Australian to win La Primavera, following in the footsteps of 2011 Milano-Sanremo Champion Matt Goss.
"I still haven't realized what we actually did today," said Gerrans. "This is an amazing feeling to win this monument. The team rode perfectly, and we played our cards just the right way."
The first 200 kilometres of the 298-kilometre race played out according to script with an early break escaping from the bunch and building up a maximum advantage of 13 minutes before the field began to give chase.
"It's always a bit of a gamble to allow the break such a big gap," said Sports Director Matt White. "I've done this a long time, so I was confident in my direction and judgment. There was a lot of wind on the coast, and I took the option to lay low, stay cool and conserve for the key moments of the race. The strategy worked out well for us."
By the race's mid-point, the gap between the break and the field began to slowly but steadily fall. The pre-race favorites all remained comfortably in the bunch as the field hit La Manie, the second climb on the menu.
The climb caused the first split in the field. The increase in pace that followed further shed riders from the main bunch. The peloton reabsorbed the break and sped on towards San Remo.
"We rode as a team all day," explained White. "The guys were always looking after each other and making sure to keep Goss in position at all the key moments. When we hit the Cipressa, we had four riders left in the front group."
Several riders launched small digs on the Cipressa. The field easily responded to each move. The descent of the Cipressa passed without incident, and a 50-strong front group hit the Poggio.
Near the summit of the final climb, Nibali attacked. Gerrans jumped on his wheel and Cancellara quickly bridged across. The trio immediately established a ten-second advantage.
"Simon had free rein to cover the big moves, and he certainly did today," said White. "We had two leaders in the race. If it went hard on the Cipresso or Poggio, Simon was our man. If it came back together for a sprint, we'd look to Gossy."
"I knew when the move went on the Poggio with Fabian, that this was time to go," added Gerrans. "It turned out to be the crucial move of the race."
"I let Sebastian and Gossy know that Simon had gotten over the top with Fabian and Nibali," White continued. "That's all I said. At this stage in the race, it's better to say nothing. The guys don't want to hear anything over the radio. They need full concentration for the descent."
The trio managed to evade the chasing field on the descent and hold them off on the run-in towards the finish. With 12 seconds on his pursuers, Cancellara led out the sprint as Gerrans came around him for the victory.
"Fabian is always keen to ride hard to get the win or a podium" explained White. "Simon played it cool. For Fabian, it was pull hard to get a chance to win or sit back in the bunch. Simon knew this was Fabian's attitude, and he capitalized on it. He has a fast sprint, and he was able to get over the top of Fabian today.
"Simon's a class act," added White. "This is the biggest win of his career."
Post-race, Gerrans noted the historical significance of the race for GreenEDGE.
"It's amazing for GreenEDGE to win the first real Classic we've done as a team," added Gerrans. "To finish up the great work the guys did today is an honor. A big thanks to everyone on this team - the staff, the riders and the people who created this team. Thank you to Gerry Ryan and Shayne Bannan."