Cadel Evans remains the greatest cyclist Australia has ever produced, says Simon Gerrans whose historic victory in the hilly Liege-Bastogne-Liege one-day classic in Belgium on Sunday has boosted his growing reputation as one of the very best riders in the world.
Gerrans’ win in the 100th edition of Liege-Bastogne-Liege – which is one of cycling’s five one-day ”monuments” – was the first by an Australian in the race and, with his increasing list of successes, enhanced his place as one of the best riders in Australian cycling history.
There are some who believe Gerrans, 33 and a rider on the Australian Orica-GreenEDGE team, has it in him to become Australia’s greatest ever rider in a country rich with champions.
Gerrans’ career is an illustrious one. It includes wins in the 2012 Milan-San Remo, stages of the 2013 Tour de France (when he also wore the yellow jersey for two days), 2009 Giro d’Italia and 2009 Vuelta a Espana (making him the first Australian to win stages in all three grand tours), the 2012 and 2014 national road title, the 2006, 2012 and 2014 Tour Down Under, and the 2005 and 2006 Herald Sun Tour.
But Gerrans says the standalone best Australian rider is still Evans, 37. In 2011 Evans became the first Australian to win the Tour de France. On Friday week he will start in the Giro d’Italia off an impressive overall victory and stage win in the Giro del Trentino last week.
Evans’ other top results include wins in the 2009 world road title, the 2010 Fleche Wallonne classic, the 2006 and 2009 Tour de Romandie, the 2011 Tirreno-Adriatico and 1998 mountain bike World Cup series; and second place finishes in the 2008 and 2007 Tour, and thirds in the 2013 Giro d’Italia and 2009 Vuelta a Espana (making him the first Australian to podium overall in all three grand tours).
And judging by how well Evans won the Giro del Trentino last week, the BMC rider is intent on adding more gloss to that already polished record before his nearing retirement – starting at the Giro d’Italia, which no Australian has won.
”I’ve had some fantastic achievements over the past few seasons, mixing it with the very best in the world in the biggest races,” Gerrans said after returning from Liege to his European home in Monaco.
”I’m obviously very proud of those results, but where that puts me in a ranking is very hard to say in relation to the other Australian cyclists.
”Cadel always has that top spot, purely from winning the Tour de France. It’s the pinnacle of the sport and the one race everybody around the entire world knows.
”The fact he has won [the Tour], that gives him a special place in Australian cycling history.”
Meanwhile, Gerrans is enjoying a break before his return to racing in the Bayern Rundfahrt stage race in Germany from May 28 to June 1.
For Gerrans, the German event will signal the start to his build-up for the Tour which this year begins in Leeds, on July 5.
But Gerrans admits it will be a tall order for Orica-GreenEDGE to repeat their success of last year, when he won stage three, the team took out the stage four team time trial and then he and South African Daryl Impey wore the yellow jersey for a total of four days.
”We haven’t worked out too specifically what the plan will be, but I think the real goal will be to win a stage again,” Gerrans said.
”Obviously, it will be very, very difficult to match what we achieved last year. That was above and beyond everybody’s wildest dreams.”
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