Onto the trails of Mount Buller went the reigning national champion, Simon Gerrans. It was an afternoon training session along with a few locals… and then down he crashed. A broken collarbone means Orica-GreenEdge is looking at different options for January. A day after his surgery, Gerrans spoke to RIDE about the crash and his amended plans for the start of 2015.
Click the SoundCloud file below to listen to the interview and/or read the transcript to find out more…
RIDE: I’m [talking to] Simon Gerrans who has had a tumble on Sunday, broke a collarbone, had surgery on Monday and he’s recuperating on Tuesday – two days before Christmas. It’s not the ideal end to the season. Can you go through what happened in the mountain biking accident?
Simon Gerrans: “It was nothing overly complicated or spectacular… After a training session on the road in the morning, I went to do a couple of hours on my mountain bike up on a new trail on Mount Buller. I was probably midway through the ride when I just came a little bit unstuck, lost control and slid out on a corner and fell down my left side pretty heavily.
“As soon as I hit the ground I knew I’d hurt myself and, as you can imagine, there was some immediate disappointment. But I had to pick myself up and walk my way out a little bit so I could get to somewhere where I could get some help and go to hospital.”
We learn a lot about collarbones because bike riders tend to break them a lot. How many have you done?
“You know what: I’ve been pretty lucky. I’ve broken this left one once before – that was back in 2006 – and that’s the only other time I’ve busted a collarbone so I was probably due for another one.”
Is it a fracture, a break… how did the surgeons approach the operation?
“I’m no expert in the area but I think it was a fairly simple break. But there were a couple of little bits of collarbone that were fragmented away… to help the whole recovery process they decided pretty much immediately after looking at the X-rays to plate it. So there’s a big, strong plate in there now which gives a nice old platform to heal from and it should really decrease the amount of recovery time that I need to be back up and going again.”
The team approach the release yesterday as though it was a ‘change of schedule’ for you. You’re now going to focus on the Classics instead of the January mission that you’ve pulled off so well these last few years. Was that discussed or you just knew that it had to be break for January?
“I just think if I was lining up in January to make up the numbers, I could probably rush a comeback and still be there to compete but off the back of my success in the past, I’m expected to line up in January… and I’m quite realistic. It’s not going to be possible after having an enforced rest at this point in my preparation.
“Nothing has been set in stone yet… but at this stage it’s looking like I won’t line up in January at all and I’ll set my sights for a little bit later in the season.”
Is there a temptation to head back to Monaco early? Or will you still take advantage of the time in Australia? How will it work?
“I’ll likely head back to Europe earlier than planned and just focus on my rehab and my early-season training at home in Monaco before I join up with the team for some training camps and a nice steady build-up for the European Spring.”
It makes sense that you’d mix up your training and throw in a bit of mountain biking. Is that something you often do?
“Yeah, quite often. It’s something I enjoy doing as a little bit of cross-training in my early season… just to finish up the training a little bit. I don’t get the opportunity to do that so much when I’m over in Europe.
“I have a really nice mountain bike from Scott here in Australia and we have some of the best riding areas, I think, up in the area where I grew up. I take advantage of that and try and get out on the mountain bike every now and then…”
Up until you heard your collarbone break, did you feel like you had the sort of form that could have put you back in the green and gold jersey?
“Yeah, that’s probably one of the most disappointing parts of it all; I was probably going the best I’ve ever gone at this point in my pre-season.
“It would have been really exciting to see what sort of results I could have potentially turned that into in January. But I guess we’ll never know.”
I had a quick chat with Matt White and he said he’s still considering how the team approaches January because it is a big month for the team, isn’t it?
“Yeah it’s a very important period of the season for the team and that’s what makes it bitterly disappointing for myself as well. I know how important these races are for the team and I know there’s a massive amount of expectation on my team-mates and myself to do well… so I guess we’ve got a pretty dynamic group of guys and I’m sure someone will relish this opportunity and step up to the mark and try and leave an impact on these next few races.”
We saw a fantastic Simon Clarke at the 2014 nationals. Do you think that he’s going to be the designated leader of the troop?
“I think what our strength is that we’ve got more than one guy in the team capable of winning the race. And that’s what’s really worked to my advantage in the past as well… in the numerous situations that unfold, we’ve got guys capable of winning on the day.
“All that’s really been done by not having me in the team is that they’ve got one less guy to try and win the race.
“I think Simon Clarke is one of many guys who can really step up and have a really good go at the green and gold jersey.”
When you’re riding in Mansfield, do you have any visitors from OGE or [are you riding with] some local blokes?
“No [OGE riders]… just some local guys who I train with up here.
“I do all the hard stuff by myself or motorpacing… so I haven’t got any Orica-GreenEdge team-mates in this area.”
We’ll conclude with a long term forecast: who do you think is going to pick up the win on the 11th of January?
“Well, I really hope one of my team-mates is able to get the jersey.
“I think, like you mentioned, Simon Clarke… he really step up last year and put in a strong ride at the nationals. I think ‘Clarkie’ will be up there. Luke Durbridge, Cameron Meyer, Damien Howson… these sort of guys, I think, are really going to work with this opportunity to have a real go at winning the race.”
You’ve had the benefit of having a few team-mates around you the two years that you’ve won. Cadel and Richie haven’t. This year they’ve got a couple of extra allies. Do you think that those guys are going to improve on their podium from last year?
“It’s hard to say. If a similar situation unfolds in the race to last year, and there’s Cadel and Richie in the front on the last lap, they’ll be very difficult to beat. But we saw that Cameron Meyer was there with them and he’s a pretty canny sort of bike rider. If it comes down to three out of the four guys who were there in the final last year, I’d like to think that we’re still in there with a shot.”
– Interview by Rob Arnold